Demonstrating Your Value as an Overqualified Candidate: Advice for Job Hunting During COVID-19

Post-COVID-19, many highly qualified people will have lost their jobs and quickly realise they will struggle to get a role similar to what they had previously, meaning they’ll need to lower expectations and take a step or two back in order to move forward. If this is you, it can be a confusing situation. You…

Demonstrating Your Value as an Overqualified Candidate: Advice for Job Hunting During COVID-19

Post-COVID-19, many highly qualified people will have lost their jobs and quickly realise they will struggle to get a role similar to what they had previously, meaning they’ll need to lower expectations and take a step or two back in order to move forward.

If this is you, it can be a confusing situation. You will apply for many roles and for what appears to be no logical reason, you will not be accepted, even for an interview. This article explains why this happens and what you can do to better influence the situation.

Firstly, you must understand that, as an overqualified candidate, you represent a “risk” that companies may not want to take, however, you also represent an “opportunity” to those very same companies. Simply put, your ability to convince a recruiter that the rewards of employing you outweigh the risks will determine how successful you are in securing a role.

Below are the reasons why companies will perceive you as a “risk”. When you’re applying for a role, it’s important to think about how you will not only respond to these concerns but pre-empt them in an application and interview.

The risks you represent as an overqualified candidate:

  • You may think you have the necessary skills and experience for the role and may even have done it in the past, but the question will be – are your skills current?
  • How will you assure your future employer that you won’t leave as soon as you get an offer with a higher salary?
  • Will the role be challenging and engaging enough to keep you motivated for the long term?
  • Will you be able to fit into the team and work well with others?
  • Can you take direction and respect the authority of a manager who may be less experienced and skilled than you are, even if they make decisions that frustrate you?

These are very real concerns that almost all companies have regarding overqualified candidates; you must be ready to address these and provide assurance you are both aware of them and will do your best to ensure they do not occur.

At the same time, you can potentially bring a lot of value to any future employer and you need to know how to convince them that you have plenty to offer. It’s important not to assume an employer is looking for a certain skill or quality – it’s more about showing what you can offer if required to do so.

As an overqualified candidate, you can (if required):

  • Adapt quickly and start making a positive impact with minimal training and direction.
  • Convey confidence in your ability to do the role to the rest of the team.
  • Bring new ideas, business contacts and clients that your new employer may not otherwise have access to.
  • Work independently with less direction, thereby freeing up your manager for other tasks.
  • Take the initiative, seeing and acting on business opportunities and bringing real value to the business.
  • Assist with the training and development of less experienced team members.

This is where you can use your track record to your advantage to demonstrate the unique value you can bring. Make sure that you can back up each of these claims with practical examples of what you’ve done in the past and the outcomes you’ve achieved in similar scenarios.

Keep in mind that an inexperienced manager may be intimated by your experience and qualifications, so you will have to work extremely hard to convince them to hire you and then allow you to add value whilst you are working with them. However, if your new manager is strong and experienced themselves, they can probably help you bring out your best, and you will likely be able to offer significant value to your new employer.

If you’re an experienced candidate looking at taking a step back or sideways to restart your career in this challenging climate, speak to our team to discuss your options. And don’t forget to read the other blogs in this series for more advice on job hunting during COVID-19.

Pete Davis is Managing Director of Frontline Recruitment Group (FRG). FRG is a specialist recruitment company with 30 offices across Australia and New Zealand. They have been operating since the early 1990s and have worked in high unemployment environments with employers and job hunters in many different industries. This blog series is about sharing some of the lessons of the past and integrating them with the technology and business practices of today. We hope you enjoy these articles and welcome your opinions.