Three Ways to Address Overqualification in a Cover Letter

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Your cover letter is like your first handshake with a new employer. Properly written, it serves to introduce you to your hiring manager and make an impression that will eventually lead to a job offer. When your resume indicates you are overqualified for jobs the company is offering, however, the cover letter can help you get past what would otherwise be a disqualifying handicap.

One way to deal with the issue of overqualification for the position is to simply avoid mentioning it. If you are one of hundreds, or even thousands, of applicants for a job, it is possible that the first round of examinations will be focused solely on excluding underqualified applicants. Assuming you have the necessary credentials, broaching the issue of overqualification in your cover letter might work against you by drawing attention to a shortcoming before the process gets underway. Glossing over your above-par expertise certainly is not dishonest; you almost certainly have a chance to discuss it with your prospective employer if you make it to the interview stage.

You may feel it necessary to bring up the issue in your cover letter. For example, there may be very few other applicants and you can expect a higher level of scrutiny during the prescreening. If so, make sure your enthusiasm for the job and the company shines through your words. When you write the cover letter, it helps to take stock of your personal reasons for accepting work beneath your skill set. Getting tired of the pressure of a management position, looking for fixed hours that give you time away from work to pursue your passion, and simple desperation for a job are all valid reasons for climbing down the ladder. Your new employer is able to understand each of these motives, and your honesty shows respect for the process.

Uppermost in the mind of a hiring manager faced with an overqualified candidate is retention. Your potential new boss would probably be glad to have someone with a lot of experience for the job, but it is a legitimate worry that you might only be looking at the company as a temporary life preserver until something better comes along. Put the manager's mind at ease by confronting the issue of retention and emphasizing the reasons you are eager to take the open job. It is also helpful to promise a minimum term of employment, such as one or two years, to show you are serious about the position.

When you are overqualified for jobs in your industry, looking for work can be just as difficult as it is for underqualified candidates. By showing discretion in the details you include on your resume, expressing your enthusiasm for the company and the job and expressing a willingness to commit to a set term, you can overcome the hurdle of overqualification and draft a cover letter that wins you the interview.


(Photo courtesy of Ambro /


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