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What to Say in Cover Letter if You're Overqualified for Job

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In any job market, losing an interview because you possess too much experience is a frustrating setback in the job search process. When the economy’s sluggish, this may hinder your ability to provide for your family. Your cover letter is your best weapon to combat this issue and prove you’re right for the job, even when you are overqualified for the position. Using the right words may mean the difference between interview and outright rejection.

Addressing Qualifications

Although your motivation to applying for a job beneath your skill set may have nothing to do with a slow economy or lack of job prospects, hiring managers can view it differently. Allison Green, chief of staff for medium-size nonprofit, says that managers view overqualified applicants as short-term employees who will be unwilling to accept the position’s pay rate. You may even not understand the details of the position and become bored with your work.

Green goes on to say that addressing these key points in your resume’s cover letter is critical to winning the interview. For instance, use your cover letter to tell a potential employer what excites you about the position because an employee with passion for their work is less likely to leave as soon as another company offers a few more dollars. Your cover letter is also the time to address if you’re taking a step back in your career to change fields or industries. Stating that you understand the need to start at the bottom, or near it, in a new career goes a long way in landing the interview.

Hiding Qualifications

While lying on your resume and cover letter is career suicide, changing your wording to avoid the overqualified job applicant stigma can work. You can also remove degree and employment information that appears too advanced for the position, but use caution with this approach. Gaps in employment set off warning bells to hiring managers.

A better way to sidestep areas that make you look overqualified for a job is to focus on your word choice in your cover letter. You may well have left an executive level job at a Fortune 500 company, but you don’t have to say that in your cover letter. Focus instead on what duties you performed. Titles can be intimidating, while duties are impressive. Devote extra time in the cover letter to showing how the skills needed in that role will translate to the position you want.

Talking Money

To some, overqualified means the same as requiring more money for a position. Even though most job seekers and hiring managers wait until the offer phase to discuss salary, bring it up in the cover letter to allay fears. You don’t have to go as far as saying the job pays X dollar per year and you’re fine with that, but you can state in the cover letter that salary is not your key motivation at this point in your career. When you know a position pays well less than your last job, saying you’re comfortable with the going salary in the market is acceptable.


Jen Whitten began her freelance writing career in 2003. Her experience in the financial services industry and as a healthy living consultant informs her articles for eHow, LIVESTRONG.COM and several other websites. She has received series 7, series 66 and Group 1 life insurance licenses, as well as a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

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