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 this feels like you, then 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 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.
When you’ve got years’ of skills and experience, it can be tempting to try and include too much information on your CV – especially 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 onto the next, more concise application. Whilst 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 the jobs that you did 20 years ago.
Whatever your experience level, it is so 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 – and writing a cover letter gives you an opportunity to address this question outright. It will also allow you to let some of your enthusiasm shine through, so it’s clear that you have a genuine interest in the role that you’re applying for.
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.
Some hiring managers may worry that if you are going for a role that is below your current skill and experience level, that you’ll treat it like a stop gap or may 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 – about 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.
If you know people within the organisation that you’re applying to, then 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 is above what is 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.”
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 are 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.
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.
Many hiring managers will already see that there is great value in hiring someone with extensive skills and life experience, but they will also want to see that you are 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 may 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 – not just how you express yourself, but also how well you can listen. It’s one of the defining features in the success of our species – the ability to communicate with one another, work together and make things happen that we couldn’t do as individuals. 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 i.e. that you’re a team player who is willing to learn from others. This is especially important when you are interviewing with a hiring manager who may be less experienced than you are. To avoid feeling intimidated they will want to know that you won’t be telling them what to do in the job! By showing them that you are willing to let them direct the interview and listen intently to what they say, you’ll be off to a good start…
Interviewers also typically have a number of things that they are looking for in a job interview. They are also used to leading you in a way that gives you the opportunity to say what they need to hear. So if you follow their lead, and stop to listen or ask questions regularly, they will most likely walk you towards the answers that they want to hear.
Try and do your research up front. 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 less 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 someone has offered you the job – 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 message to give.
Some recruiters will actively ask for your previous salary however, so if you know 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 are clear about the salary range for the role they are advertising.
Are you applying for roles you are ‘overqualified’ for? We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for others, and any experiences (good or bad) that you’ve had in applying for roles. Email us at [email protected].