I’m over-qualified for the roles I’m applying for but I’m still not getting interviewed. Why not? Any advice?

CONTENT PCM over-qualified

There might be lots of reasons why you’ve applied for job where you have over and above the skills and experience required. You might think this would make you a great catch for the employer. 

So why does this rarely work and what if anything can you do about it? 

1) Do you really want this job?

If you’ve been applying for more junior roles, then before you try to persuade an employer, be honest with yourself first. You may need a job but is this really the job you want? If you are ambivalent about this, no matter how much you try, then your uncertainty is going to show through. Your covering letter and CV is likely to be unfocused and half-hearted and your body language at interview is likely to be saying very clearly 'I’m not sure if I want this job' even if your words are saying the opposite. 

Employers understandably want someone who is highly motivated and who is going to stay in the role. Why would they hire you if they suspect, probably quite rightly, that you would be looking for another job within the month.

2) Positive choice

If this more junior job is one that you genuinely need and want, then you must convince the employer that your application is far from a second-best career choice. Otherwise they may wonder whether you are only applying to them through desperation, because you struggled with the demands of working at a more senior level or there has been some other career distress that has led to your intended downshift.  

Even if any of these are true, always be careful about sharing negative reasons for applying for a job because they can raise additional concerns. For instance, if you say that you want a job with less responsibility then the interviewer might wonder whether there were any performance issues in your last job. Even if you are down-shifting to a more junior part-time job for family reasons or pre-retirement be careful that you don’t come across at interview as half-hearted or a clock-watcher. Find a positive reason why you are attracted to the job such as wanting to be more involved in your finance area of specialism rather than leading a team.

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3) The right pitch

If you are looking for a more junior role as a way to get your foot in the door of a new career path then remember the employer’s priority is someone who can do the job, not to do you a favour. Don’t dumb down your previous jobs but select relevant content for your CV and interview answers that is pitched at the right level. For instance if you are going for a Finance Manager job rather than a finance director role, then focus on your technical and people skills rather than the strategic responsibilities you’ve been involved in. 

4) Downplay your seniority

You could try using a functional CV rather than an historical one with all of your relevant capabilities on the first page of your CV and relegating your career history to the second page. This allows you to highlight your transferable skills and experience, and downplay your more senior track record.  

5) Entry Routes

Use your networks as you can probably be more honest with them about what you are looking for next and why and they may be able to help shape a flexible role which meets both of your needs. Temping is another great way to get into organisations you are interested in as there seems to be less of an issue in hiring more senior staff in junior temporary roles. Once you are there, you can also make connections, check out any internal vacancies and try and position yourself for future opportunities from the inside.

Corinne Mills is Managing Director of Personal Career Management, the leading specialists in career management and outplacement services who are the official Career Management partners for the ACCA.

As part of ACCA Member benefits, Personal Career Management offer ACCA Members a free career conversation and a 10% discount off any career coaching or outplacement programme. 

If you are looking for help in reaching your career goals, or assistance with a practical job search strategy, then call Personal Career Management on +44 1753 888 995 for a confidential discussion or fill in their online contact form 

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