Experience – in all areas of life – is incredibly valuable because it gives you a greater understanding of who you are. The more you experience, the more skills you’ll tuck under your belt, and the more perspective you’ll gain – which can only be a good thing, both professionally and personally.
However, when it comes to changing careers in later life, you may feel uneasy about applying for a job that doesn’t match your skills and experience level – especially when you have more skills than are necessary for a particular role.
If you find yourself in this situation, the key thing to remember is that hiring managers are less likely to doubt your ability to do a good job, and more likely to worry – with so much experience – that you’re hoping to gain more from the role than it can realistically offer (e.g. higher pay and/or a fast-tracked promotion).
People may also make incorrect assumptions about your commitment to the role, assuming that you might feel it’s beneath you in some way.
But, by preparing to address these incorrect assumptions head-on, you can easily show prospective employers that the term ‘overqualified’ is completely irrelevant – and that by hiring you, they’ll be gaining a star team member with great intuition and resilience.
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1. Declutter your CV
When you’ve got years of skills and experience, it can be tempting to try and include too much information on your CV. This is especially true about things you’re particularly proud of. But it’s likely that not all of this information will be relevant to the role you’re applying for, and will make your CV much longer than it needs to be.
An employer can often receive hundreds of applications for a single job, and if your CV is more than two pages long, there’s a good chance they’ll become overwhelmed and move on to the next, more concise application.
While it’s important to list places you’ve worked, job titles you’ve had, and core skills you’ve picked up along the way, any additional details or examples from more than 10 years ago should only be included if they demonstrate your ability to do the job you’re applying for. Otherwise, it becomes irrelevant.
It’s more important to summarise a list of your relevant skills and experience at the start of your CV in a brief personal summary than it is to give extensive information about jobs you did 20 years ago.
For more CV tips, you might want to check out our article. Or to find out more about our CV help service, you can head over to the relevant page of our website.
2. Always include a cover letter
Whatever your experience level, it’s very important to make sure you include a cover letter. It’s your chance to speak directly to a prospective employer and let them know why you want this specific job with this specific company, and which of your positive attributes you can bring to the role.
From looking at your CV alone, there’s a chance that your potential boss might wonder why you’re applying for a position that doesn’t match your skills and experience level. But writing a cover letter gives you an opportunity to address this concern outright. It’ll also allow you to let some of your enthusiasm shine through, so it’s clear that you have a genuine interest in the role.
Your cover letter is your chance to make a lasting first impression and stand out from the crowd, so it’s always worth taking the time to write one.
If you’re ready to write a cover letter, then our article, Tips for writing a cover letter when you’re over 50, will hopefully be helpful. We also have a number of cover letter templates that you can download.
3. Express loyalty
Some hiring managers may worry that if you’re going for a role that’s below your current skill and experience level, you’ll treat it like a stop-gap or might be expecting to accelerate through the ranks as soon as you get your foot in the door.
For this reason, you should try to reassure your potential boss – both in your cover letter and/or your interview – of your motives for wanting the role. It’s a good idea to explain what led you to apply for the role and how you think you could help the company grow.
Finding out as much as you can about a company before an interview can help with this. Our article has plenty of tips on the best ways to do this.
4. Let your network speak for you
If you know people within the organisation that you’re applying to, there’s a good chance that (if they haven’t already) they can put in a good word for you with the hiring manager. A recommendation from someone that the hirer knows will give them positive insight into what you could be like to work with day-to-day.
If a prospective employer is having doubts about your loyalty or longevity in the role because your skill and experience level are above what’s required, then a reliable account of you from a trusted third party could give them the reassurance they need to move past the idea that you may be ‘overqualified’.
To find out how to make the most of your connections with others during your job search, you might want to read our article below.
5. Show admiration, interest, and enthusiasm
One of the main things that prospective employers will want to know about you, other than how your skills and experience will qualify you for the role, is that you’re interested in the opportunity, admire what the company stands for, and are humble and willing to work hard.
You may have more skills and experience than the role demands – but if an interviewer gets the sense that you are complacent, this could harm your chances of securing the job.
6. Show that you're a team player
Hiring managers might consider how your skills and experience could affect the dynamics of the current working team – for example, whether you can take direction from team members who may be less experienced than you. They may also be worried that others will be intimidated by you and your experience.
If your interviewer asks you to give examples of times you’ve successfully worked as a team, then avoid giving examples of times when you were in charge (unless they specifically ask for examples where you have led a team). Instead, try to give examples of times when you worked well as an equal member of a team to reach a specific goal.
7. Make it clear that you're willing to learn
Many hiring managers will already see that there’s great value in hiring someone with extensive skills and life experience, but they’ll also want to see that you’re willing to take on new skills and learn new things.
Not all companies do things the same way and employers appreciate candidates who can acknowledge this and remain open-minded and flexible when it comes to taking on new tasks or adopting new ways of doing things.
Let them know that, yes, you might already have experience, but you’re more than willing to get stuck in and embrace new challenges as they arise. Of course, you know this, but it’s important that, by the end of your interview, the hiring manager knows this too.
An interviewer will always look at your communication skills. This not only involves how you express yourself, but also how well you can listen.
Listening one of the defining features in the success of our species. It gives us the ability to communicate with one another, work together, and make things happen that we couldn’t do as individuals. And it could be argued that nowhere is this more important than when you’re working as part of a team in the workplace.
By showing your interviewer that you have excellent listening skills, you’ll also be giving them a clue about what you could be like to work with (for example, that you’re a team player who’s willing to learn from others). This is especially important when you’re interviewing with a hiring manager who might be less experienced than you are.
To avoid feeling intimidated, they’ll want to know that you won’t be telling them what to do on the job! By showing them that you’re willing to let them direct the interview and listen intently to what they say, you’ll be off to a good start. If the age gap between you and your interviewer makes you feel uneasy, then you might want to read our article; Why you shouldn’t worry about being interviewed by someone younger.
Interviewers also typically have a number of things that they’re looking for in a job interview and are used to leading candidates in a way that gives them the opportunity to say what they need to hear. So if you follow their lead, and stop to listen or ask questions regularly, they’ll most likely walk you towards the answers that they want to hear.
9. Be realistic about your salary expectations
Try and do your research upfront. If the salary ranges aren’t displayed in a job advert, then before making your application, try doing some broader research into the role to find out what sort of pay you can expect. If you’re applying for a role that requires fewer skills and experience than your previous jobs, then the salary may also be lower.
We always suggest that you don’t discuss salary expectations in your interview, unless you are specifically asked or until someone offers you the job. It’s much easier to negotiate salary when you have an offer. Whereas asking upfront in an interview can give employers the impression that you care more about the salary than the role – which, even if true, is not the right impression to give.
However, some recruiters will actively ask for your previous salary. If your previous salary was significantly higher than the role you are wanting to secure, then it’s a good idea to make it clear to your interviewer that you’re flexible, and that you’re clear about the salary range for the role they are advertising.
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In the world of job searching, the question of how to land a job that you’re underqualified for is a popular topic of discussion. However, when applying for jobs later on in life with a wealth of experience under your belt, it’s not uncommon to come across roles that you’re overqualified for.
So if you’re finding yourself in this situation, we hope that these tips and advice will help you navigate your application process, nail that interview, and hopefully land the job that you want. And for more career advice including CV, cover letter, and interview tips and tricks, why not head over to the careers section of our website?