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Career Corner: Jul. 30, 2020

"How can I overcome the perception that I’m “overqualified” or “too experienced” for a new role?"

Mary Engelman, ACS Career Consultant
Mary Engelman, ACS Career Consultant

Do not try to hide that you may be overqualified for a position. Having many accomplishments and skills is not necessarily a bad thing. Show your enthusiasm for the position and your eagerness to learn. Be pleasant, respectful, and compassionate. Share your passion for being a team player. Companies are looking for enthusiastic, talented, team players.  


Heinz Plaumann, CEO and Co-Founder, Quantum Qik Careers
Heinz Plaumann, CEO and Co-Founder, Quantum Qik Careers

We often encounter opportunities which are not quite our know-how or experience match.  In the case where we may seem “over-qualified,” I have advised the candidates to proceed to apply for the position and to avoid being “electronically screened out” I suggest seeking a contact for a one-on-one conversation. In that conversation I would emphasize the skills of being a flexible, hard worker and a good-learner, being able to contribute quickly to THEIR success and, once in the position, being in a position to train others.


Peter Bonk, ACS Career Consultant
Peter Bonk, ACS Career Consultant

“Overqualified” is code for “we only want to pay $XX for this position.” Know the market and your worth - ACS Salary Survey has data - and don’t EVER sell yourself short by hiding an advanced degree or significant experience. Salary ranges exist for most jobs, and if a position is otherwise a good fit, ask about the range. It may be worthwhile to accept a lower salary (which might be at the high end of their range) than desired to get in the door, where you can dazzle and shine. But discussing dollars is ONLY if you are about to be dropped from consideration. 


Chris Bannochie, Manager R&D Execution, Savannah River National Laboratory
Chris Bannochie, Manager R&D Execution, Savannah River National Laboratory
  • Avoid applying for jobs that are listed as “entry level” or “no experience required.”
  • Remember that being “over-qualified” may simply be a polite way of saying, “We like someone else for this position better” for reasons that will never be stated, so simply move on to the next opportunity.
  • Tailor your presentation to the posted position. While you may have many other skills, only focus on those that you can discern as important from the posting. During the open Q&A period your responses many bring other skills to light that the company may not have included in the formal posting or for other positions you do not even know are available.

Donald Truss, ACS Career Consultant
Donald Truss, ACS Career Consultant

When considering an “over-qualified” candidate, the interviewer is trying to guess at 3 things:

  1. Can you do the job? – Yes, this is easy.
  2. Will you be happy in this role for the next few years? This is the critically important question. It is disruptive if you leave for any reason.
  3. Will you accept direction or think you are smarter and “go rogue?”

The answer is understanding the company and expressing enthusiasm for the opportunity. Convince them that you will sweep the floor if necessary to get the opportunity to join the team. “Put me in coach!”


The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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