Techniques for remaining attractive to employers even though you're massively overqualified

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Oct 4, 2011

Sarah Butcher

There’s a growing possibility that a lot of very talented, very highly qualified financial services professionals might be looking for jobs in the next six months.

What can you do if you find yourself among them and competing for positions that require fewer years of experience than you have?

1) Make it absolutely clear that you really want the job

If you are applying for a job you could have done five years previously, you must make it absolutely clear that you are aware of this, that it is not an issue and that you will not leave as soon as something better comes up.

“You need to clearly mitigate any doubts an employer might have,” says Rob Yeung, a director at business consultancy Talentspace. “You need to put out a sort of press release providing the reasons why you’re pursuing this particular job rather than the job your career track might suggest you should be applying for.”

This could be a personal statement at the top of your resume or it could be a covering letter, but it needs to be well thought through.

“Before you’ve even applied for a job for which you’re overqualified, you need to sit down and think through why you want it,” says Janet Moran, managing director of The CV House. “What will interest you about it - rather than just getting the paycheck at the end of the month?”

2) Talk about your children and your technical prowess

Acceptable reasons for wanting a job that’s less exciting than anything you’ve done recently include "work/life balance" or "just loving the technical aspects of the role."

“We saw someone who’d been managing a very large high-powered team and wanted a less demanding role at a smaller company,” says Kate Grussing, founder of recruitment firm Sapphire Partners, which places senior people into flexible roles. “He convinced them to take him on because he was honest: he hadn’t seen his kids properly for five years and felt he’d missed them growing up.”

Saying you’re technically amazing and would prefer to be a doer than a manager also works when you’re trying for a job you could do with your eyes closed.

“Employers will want to see that you’ve demonstrated the technical skills to do the job and that you can apply those skills to the role immediately,” says Moran. “You need to show that you are very accomplished at what you do and that you absolutely want to go on doing that in a different economic environment.”

3) Go for a "skills-based" resume

Yeung suggests that rather than the standard reverse chronological resume starting with the top of your career achievements and then working backwards to how you got there, you might want to try a resume structured around your skills.

“On the first page, list between three and six skills that you think are relevant to that job and highlight how you’ve demonstrated them in the past,” says Yeung. “On the second page, you can list all your experience, briefly.”

4) Don’t write one of those resumes which emphasizes how wonderful you are

There’s a tendency, when writing a resume, to use it as a sales device emphasizing your achievements. Tone this down.

“The typical tendency is to absolutely maximize everything you’ve done because you’re looking for something better,” says Moran. “But when you’re overqualified you need to approach the resume with a different mindset. Rather than stretching what you’ve done previously, emphasize your absolute preparedness and ability to do this job from the outset.”

5) Practice submissive body language

People will not want to employ you if you have been more important than them and appear determined to remember that. Try to be a little bit submissive: do not shake hands with excessive vigor, smile a lot, leave your hands facing up and look at the floor occasionally, although though not so much that you appear subdued or interested in the carpet.

6) Conceal all desperation

If you exude an odor of desperation, you will get nowhere.

“You need to make it absolutely clear that you’re signed up to do this role and are actively seeking it, rather than that you’ve scratched around and it’s the only thing you can find,” says Moran.

This article first appeared on our UK site.