This post was written by Associate Director of Northeastern Career Development, Susan Loffredo.
Have you ever dated someone who used “You’re too good for me” as a reason for breaking up with you? Did you believe it? I didn’t think so. So when an employer passes on hiring you for the same reason, you shouldn’t believe it either. Or should you?
In most cases, you probably should. Just because you’ve moved way beyond the job you’re currently applying for, doesn’t mean you would be better at it than someone who has only those exact qualifications. In fact, you probably wouldn’t be as good, because those old skills are probably rusty.
I am assuming here that you applied for a lower level job not because it’s the job of your dreams but because you need a job, any job. Hiring managers understand this, and are leery of candidates who seem like they are only interested in a quick paycheck and will decamp as soon as a better offer comes along.
Employers are also concerned that candidates with an overabundance of experience will be bored and unmotivated because the job isn’t challenging, and will ultimately become unhappy with the lower salary and status. And think about this: if your qualifications are equal to or greater than those of your prospective manager, you may be perceived as someone who is gunning for that manager’s job. While there are managers secure enough to hire someone who could challenge their authority and expertise, not many do.
Your best chance of getting hired is by going after jobs that fit your qualifications to perfection. But if the rent is due and you have to broaden your search, selectively applying to positions that require less experience may be a reasonable option, especially if you are able to commit to staying at least a year.
In addition, choose jobs that offer you a chance to learn something, maybe a new field or a different set of skills. Explain in your cover letter that this is one reason this job appeals to you. Be clear that you realize the salary may be less than someone with your experience might expect, but that it’s okay. Maybe a less challenging job will allow you to have more time outside of work to devote to family, additional training or an important hobby. Make this point in your cover letter as well if it fits.
The job market seems to be improving, but there are still so many job seekers on the market that employers, like Goldilocks, can usually choose the one who is just right. But if you can show the employer valid reasons for your interest and the worth of your skills, that just right one could be you.
Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2013. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.