Resume Writing: What Makes Your Resume Appear Over Qualified and What You Can Do

By Phil Baker

Resumes are all about perception and appearance. During a down turn in the economy or in a career change situation many people are forced to seek jobs for which they are overqualified. Understanding what can make you appear overqualified on your resume can help you make adjustments in your resume writing. You need to minimize your chances of being labeled so you can get interviews.

If you are shopping for an economical entry level vehicle and a salesperson directs you to a luxury car the first thing that comes to mind is price. You immediately equate the luxury or overqualified vehicle as being more expensive. This is the same conclusion employers draw about employees.

If you are ready to buy your dream car loaded with options that costs $50,000 and you found a band new one for sale for only $21,000 you would no doubt be suspect and wonder what is wrong with that car. This same suspicion arises when an obviously overqualified person applies for a job that pays far beneath their abilities and experience. The employer wonders what is wrong and how long the candidate would stay working for lower pay. In addition these candidates can often be set in their ways or think they know better and be more difficult to train.

What can make you appear overqualified? You might generally be considered so on your resume or cover letter because:

  • of your position titles.
  • your education is far beyond the position requirements.
  • the position is under management and your experience is in upper management.
  • the position is entry level and you have several years or more experience.
  • the job posting clearly states a level of experience required and you have considerably more.
  • your salary history or requirement is much higher than the position pay range.

Position Titles

Matching position titles between your resume and job postings can be critical for obtaining interviews. Position titles can make you overqualified even though employers might be comparing apples and oranges. For instance if you have been working as a VP at a small business with 6 employees, your responsibilities and duties might not be much different than a middle management employee at a larger company. Yet because there might be several thousand employees at the larger company and a Vice President is considered at the top of the food chain with considerably higher pay than managers, you might be seen as overqualified.

Your job title can also make you appear as competition for a hiring decision maker. When a department head sees you have more education or experience than he or she does, you might get ruled out because of their personal fear. In this case you will never know why they did not call you.

What You Can Do:

While position titles can often be adjusted, be careful not to distribute or post your resumes with widely varying titles. This can appear deceitful if your resumes are ever compared. Be sure that you have approval from your previous employer and warn them about any slight title flexibility. Title flexibility means making small title changes that still describe the position. For example, a Vice President of a small company could be a VP of Management, Manager, or Managing Officer, or you could leave titles off.

Amount or Type of Experience

Because an amount of experience is a measurable factor how much experience you have is easy to recognize on your resume. When an employer requires a minimum of 5 years of experience, having 7 or 10 years of experience is usually not going to make you overqualified. In that case, if your experience is more than five years than the minimum, you could be seen as overqualified. If you have five years experience and are seeking a position that advertises entry level or one year of experience, you stand a good chance of appearing overqualified. This can all be compounded by your past job titles and education.

What You Can Do

When a position is described as entry level, employers might want a candidate they can train or mold to adhere to their environment and they often budget entry level equivalent pay. If you have extensive experience in the field you can play this down on your resume by using a skills or functional format and being prepared to offer explanations at an interview.

Make Your Skills Work in Your Favor

Focus on your skills that are relevant to the available position you are seeking. An employer might be looking for an entry level candidate, just like you might shop for a low price economy car. That does not always mean they only want entry level skills. You want to pay the lowest price possible but hey, if you can get that same car with premium alloy wheels, a GPS, leather seats, or upgraded sound package for the same price, are you going to turn it down?

Look for any extras or features on the employer’s wish list. These are the bells and whistles that can push the employer off the fence about your resume and make them call you for an interview. What is great is employers frequently tell you their bells and whistles wish list in their job postings. These skills are associated with what I call the wish list words. These are words such as helpful, knowledge of, plus, huge plus, desired, beneficial, useful, familiar with, familiarity with, and more.

For example:

  • experience with Quickbooks software helpful
  • knowledge of labor law a plus
  • HTML skills desired
  • business degree beneficial
  • experience using truck scale useful
  • familiarity with electronic schematics desirable

I have also seen the words advantageous and favorable in job postings. If you have a skill or special knowledge the employer has listed as advantageous, desirable, or favorable you have a golden ticket! Who doesn’t want to be advantageous, desirable, or favorable in the job hunting arena?

These are not required knowledge, skills, and abilities but desired. If you meet the employer’s basic requirements, possessing one of these wish list items can be the hot button or deciding factor that gets you in. Make sure they know you have these features. Work these items into your resume at the top under a Skills Summary section and in your cover letter!

Amount or Type of Education

Sometimes the lack of available jobs in a particular field or another reason might require you to search for a position beneath your education. If the position necessitates a bachelor degree and you have a PhD, you will be seen as educationally overqualified by many employers. If you are applying for a job as a health aid and you are a registered nurse you can have the same issue.

What You Can Do

After all the hard work and cost, education is not something most people want to hide. If you are grossly overqualified by your education, omitting your schooling is an option, though you might consider a brief line of explanation in your cover letters instead. Explain that you are seeking the position and an appropriate pay and why. Offer assurance of continued employment and whether you are interested in advancement opportunities within the company when and if they become available.

Past Salary or Salary Requirements

Salary and pay information should not be included in your resume writing. You can be financially overqualified because your salary history or requirement is higher than the position pay range. Refrain from sending any employer your salary requirements. Find out how you can avoid revealing your past pay information until you have entered salary negotiation. Copyright 2010 by Phil Baker. Freely distribute this article but please leave article, author name, copyright info, and links intact.

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