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We’ve all heard the saying – sometimes you need to take a step back to take several steps forward. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world to take many steps back, but in doing so, progress has been made in areas such as remote work scheduling, video conferencing technology, and understanding the challenges facing working parents. Unemployment has been a significant issue since the start of the pandemic, as a number of industries were hit hard and have yet to recover. As a result, employees have had to reprioritize in order to reenter the workforce.

In a perfect world, a career path would have no bumps. Employees would move smoothly from one job to another, each with progressive titles, increasing responsibilities, and higher salaries. But things don’t always go as planned, and when unexpected layoffs occur and bills start piling up, it’s far less important to wait for the next big career opportunity than it is to just get back to work. Consequently, some unemployed workers and new grads have been forced to take a step back by applying for jobs for which they’re overqualified in order to eventually move forward.

There are several reasons why employers may be hesitant to hire those whose knowledge, skills or experience exceed the requirements for their target role. However, there are ways job seekers can market themselves for such positions that can increase their chances of success. Let’s look at a few of each.

Employer Concerns

When asked about employers’ hesitancy to hire overqualified candidates, Jill Chapman, Senior Performance Consultant with Insperity Recruiting Services, provides several reasons. The first is compensation demands. Better qualified employees command higher salaries, and even if they’re willing to accept less for a lower-skilled role, chances are they’ll soon expect a raise. Another reason is that overqualified employees may be harder to manage or have more trouble taking direction than their less-experienced counterparts. A third reason is that overqualification could result in job dissatisfaction and boredom. While those who are unemployed may be willing to accept a lesser role in order to return to work, how long will they remain interested and engaged doing work they don’t find challenging? And finally, overqualified employees may simply use the position as a steppingstone or temporary filler until something better comes along.

Customize Resumes

Shifting focus to what candidates can do to ensure that more experience doesn’t yield fewer interviews, Chapman recommends applicants customize their resume for each role. Most job seekers already know to do this; however, when there’s a disparity between candidate experience and job requirements, it becomes even more important. In many cases, the skills or qualifications that make candidates overqualified may not be relevant to the position for which they’re applying and can be omitted from their resume. Rather than listing their most impressive career accomplishments, applicants should instead focus on areas of experience from past positions that directly relate to the new role’s duties and responsibilities. They can then use the resume’s summary section or bullet points under previous roles to highlight the relationship between past and future success.

Include a Cover Letter

Cover letters have become a hot topic of debate in recent years as to whether employers and recruiters actually read them. However, when it comes to communicating pertinent information such as why a seemingly overqualified candidate is interested in a particular position, they can be invaluable. Chapman suggests applicants use a cover letter to explain their interest in the role or company, citing specific elements of the job that are attractive, as well as reasons such as the company’s reputation, culture, work/life balance or even location. By showing that candidates have a genuine interest in the role and company and have taken the time to research them both thoroughly, employers will be more inclined to overlook their overqualification in favor of hiring loyal and dedicated employees.

Prepare Responses in Advance

Applicants should anticipate questions regarding their overqualification in interviews by preparing responses in advance. According to Chapman, citing a history of long-term employment with the same company can help temper employer concerns of job-hopping. Likewise, reiterating candidates’ interest in the role and company listed in their cover letter can work to their advantage. Finally, sharing references from previous employers can help convince hiring managers that candidates are applying for the right reasons and would be an asset to the company regardless of overqualification.

Think Strategically

Candidates can benefit from thinking strategically when applying for roles for which they may be overqualified, and convincing hiring managers to do the same. As Chapman points out, the scope of the position may grow in the future, and candidates with more experience or qualifications could easily grow with the role while taking on new responsibilities. This could benefit the company in the long run, allowing for faster growth and greater profitability than if they hire a less-experienced worker who requires more training or doesn’t possess the same potential for growth. In short, hiring an employee whose qualifications exceed the position’s requirements can be an investment in the company’s future.

Due to the high unemployment rate resulting from COVID-19, job seekers are applying for more positions than in recent years. Naturally, those who are anxious to return to the workforce may expand the range of roles they would consider, including those for which they may be under- or overqualified. Employers now have their pick of candidates, and hiring those who are overqualified for a position can be both an advantage and disadvantage. Experienced job seekers must therefore learn to market themselves to employers while positioning their overqualification as an asset, not a drawback.

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Sally Fletcher
Sally Fletcher

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Sally Fletcher
December 12, 2023

I would highly recommend agilis recruitment to anyone looking for work. I was contacted a few weeks ago by Chris, who matched the skills I have to an opportunity I was unable to refuse. He was professional and knowledgeable, but also friendly and down to earth. With quick response times, he was able to answer every question I had about the role whilst selling my skills and personality to the company before I had even met them. The input form Chris throughout the process, not only made everything easier but also it took the pressure off massively. I am very grateful. Thank you.

Jon Ives
December 11, 2023

Chris has done a great job for me. It's most refreshing to have a recruiter that both understands the role being recruited and listens to the candidate's requirements and concerns. Top marks!

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December 2, 2023

It was great to work with Chris at Agilis to find my new role. He was always on hand to guide me through the process and make sure I was fully briefed prior to each interview. I would happily use Chris to find me a job... although I'm very happy where I am now! M-W Kelly

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October 31, 2023

Had a top experience with Edd. Sorted me 3 interviews with my preference of company, landed a role very quickly after. Professional + Friendly guy, would recommend.

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An excellent recruitment experience. From the initial contact and throughout the interview process, Chris and his team excelled. I can highly recommend this agency.

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May 15, 2023

Chris from Agilis recruitment was fantastic. Professional and friendly; from providing the role, to the level of contact throughout the process.

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Edd was great, I had some bad experiences with recruiters whilst looking for a new role but Edd restored my faith!

March 29, 2023

Chris at Agilis was professional throughout the entire process and was always available to discuss any concerns. He also made sure to only flag roles that I would have a genuine interest in. Thanks again Chris!

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March 1, 2023

Chris Ellsworth was my recruiter and I was greatly impressed with the level of his assistance throughout the process from start to finish. He provided me with job role applications that were personalised to me based on what I told him I was looking for. If there was any confusion, I was always able to contact him throughout the whole process and ask for clarification which he would then, always happily give. Chris genuinely made me feel that he wanted me to get the role as much as I did and helped me with every step on the way.

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I had a great experience with Ed and Agilis. Found me a job which was the perfect fit and supported me along the way. Thank you so much for the support Ed.

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Had a great experience with Agilis Recruitment. Ed helped me find the perfect role for me in a great business. He also was very professional, cooperative but most importantly, understood what was important to me and listened to what I was looking for. Thank you Ed!

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Amazing experience with Agilis, a professional company. I have no words to thank Edward. He found a great role for me.

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February 5, 2021

I had a great experience with Ed and Agilis. It was great to have a recruiter who understands exactly what his clients are looking for in a candidate. 5 stars!

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February 2, 2021

Ed was great, found me a job which was the perfect fit and supported me along the way, solid agency

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May 27, 2020

Laura is a lovely individual and easily the best recruiter I have ever worked with: proactive without being pushy, professional without lacking sincerity, and most importantly, she genuinely cares about her clients. She was incredibly conscientious in understanding my background and aspirations, and matched me with a role I WAS really excited about. I knew I was in good hands from our very first conversation – and I am happy to say I am a month into my new job and loving it!

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April 21, 2020

I worked with Ed when securing my role. It was a massive step in the direction I wanted to move my career in and Ed was pivotal in making that happen. I liked that right from the start he was not pushy, he listened to what I had to say and feedback and he kept in regular contact without bombarding me, using the most suitable form of messaging whether it be LinkedIn, Email or a Phone Call. I would highly recommend Ed and the guys at Agilis - keep up the great work guys!

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March 30, 2020

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March 23, 2020

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March 20, 2020

Laura and Ed at Agilis helped me get placed last year, and Laura was exceptionally accommodating and patient, calling me outside of hours when it was convenient for me and keeping me in the loop about everything that was going on. I'm happy with my role and feel like the guys at Agilis really put time and effort into their work -- thank you!

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March 20, 2020

My experience with Agilis has been great. I found Laura to be incredible helpful and always ensured she remained in contact with me throughout my job search. Thankfully I managed to find a new job through Agilis and the company has turned out to be everything that they told me the it would be! 5 Stars from me!!

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March 19, 2020

Great experience with Agilis. Following relocating to Bristol I’d found myself having conversations with a couple members of the team. I’d expressed how important it was for me to find the right role but also due to circumstance I needed the process to be accelerated as much as possible. Laura was my main point of contact and managed to find me the best role I’ve ever had in what must be record time. I couldn’t rate their work higher and will definitely be my first point of contact when looking for new opportunities. Thanks again!

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March 19, 2020