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Applying For a Job You’re Overqualified For? Do These 3 Things to Raise Your Chance of Getting Hired

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Joanne Poh

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When you’re a rookie just starting out on the corporate ladder, you’re hungry for experience—any kind of experience that will pull you up a rung or two. But there comes a time, after you reach a certain age, when your years of experience actually start to work against you.

This is what retrenched, mid-career PMETs are finding out the hard way—this group is finding it the hardest to replace their jobs after being retrenched, and many are forced to take colossal pay cuts because no one else will hire them.

But there are other reasons someone might apply for a job they’re overqualified for. Maybe you’re looking for a less stressful job, or you’re making a career change. Whatever your reasons, you find yourself getting passed up for fresh grads who are cheaper to hire. Sound familiar? Here are three things you should do to make it easier to secure a job:

 

1. If you’re making a career change, make sure it’s obvious enough in your application

So you worked in a particular industry for 10 years, and now you’re ready to make a big change and finally go after a job you’re more interested in. Good for you, but when potential employers see a 38-year-old applying for a job that’s been attracting 23-year-old applicants up till then, don’t be surprised if they raise an eyebrow.

The employer’s biggest worry is likely to be that, as an experienced hire, you’re expecting a higher salary than they’re paying their fresh grads. On top of that, your resume is likely to show that you lack the necessary experience. Given these factors, it’s unsurprising if your application is passed up.

If you’re making a 180-degree career change, make sure that comes through in your application. You want to reiterate in your cover letter as well as on your CV (bearing in mind that recruiters or HR departments sometimes don’t bother reading cover letters) that you’re looking to make a detour in your career, and that you’re willing to start at the bottom.

 

2. If your title in a previous job is misleading, provide clear details of what you were actually doing

Job titles can be misleading. You might have officially been known as the Vice President of Marketing in your last job, but if your company was some dusty old SME that consisted of four people and your only subordinates were interns during the school holiday period, your job title might be unnecessarily intimidating, especially if you are applying for a job you’re overqualified for.

Simply put, you’re going to freak potential employers out. They’re going to wonder if you expect to be a VP at their organisation, too. Even if your actual experience would place you at the level of a lowly executive, they wouldn’t want to call you in for an interview because they’d think you’d have a problem with your new, downgraded job title.

Ideally, you want to give extensive details of what your job actually entailed, so they can see that “Vice President” really meant “the only guy in the damned department”.

 

3. If your last-drawn salary was scarily high, make it clear you’re willing to accept less

Singapore is a place where employers always want “cheaper, better, faster”. Nobody knows for sure if you’ll be better or faster until you’re sitting under their noses in that cubicle. But they sure as hell can see if you’ll be cheaper.

So if your last drawn salary was more than this new company’s CEO himself is making, you’ve got a bit of damage control to do, as this will be their biggest reason for trashing your CV. In other words, you’ve got some reassuring to do. If your salary was really way higher than what you should expect in a new role you’re applying for, you want to make it clear on your application that you are willing to accept a lower salary than what you last drew.

This can feel counter-intuitive, because normally we’re taught to try to bargain for as much as we can get, not the other way around. But remember, this is a situation where you’re applying for a role you’re clearly overqualified for.

Make sure you’ve done your research and know how much you should be paid in this new role so you can arrive at a salary that’s acceptable to both of you. You may be willing to take a pay cut, but that doesn’t mean you should accept something that’s unreasonable.

Have you ever applied for a job you were overqualified for? Share your experiences in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.