Finding A Job When You're Overqualified

Posted: 11/6/2013

By: Elias Cobb, Quantix Recruiting Manager

One big question I hear a lot is, "Do recruiters ever consider overqualified candidates?" The answer is more complex than yes or no, so I'll explain some of the reasons behind both answers.

The answer is no when:

1) The client has specifically asked us NOT to submit overqualified candidates. This can happen when the manager has been burned by an overqualified candidate before (said they were interested in the job; left as soon as a higher level one came along) or when the manager's team would not be best served by hiring an overqualified candidate.

2) You (the overqualified candidate), have not been hands-on with the required technical skill(s) in years. We know you could come up to speed quickly, but you also have to realize the client is not paying us, the staffing firm, to find candidates who need ramp up time. They pay us to find perfect matches.

The answer is yes when:

1) We have a client that embraces overqualified candidates (yes, they ARE out there).

2) You have all the technical skills and are in the salary range and are convincing enough in your reasons to move down in responsibility to convince us to submit you. Sounding desperate or argumentative in talking with the recruiter is the exact opposite of what you should do. That makes the recruiter feel like you're taking a job just to take a job, NOT because you really want that particular job.

Recruiters are paid by clients, so they have to abide by the requirements set down by their clients. If the client has specifically requested for no overqualified candidates, there is nothing you can do to convince the recruiter to submit you. If you sound desperate, again, that is not going to convince the recruiter to submit you. If you quit the job when a better one comes along, it has negative consequences for the recruiter (unless you quit a year or more later). The recruiter may have to pay back their fee, refill the position for free or, at best, face negative feelings from the client which could affect future business.

You also have to realize that a client company may be less likely to hire you through a staffing firm because they are paying a fee for you. If you quit a short time later, they may be out a chunk of money depending on the contract they have negotiated with the staffing firm.

So what do you, the overqualified candidate, do? First, don't stop applying for jobs with recruiters. Just understand the process and your chances. If you don't hear back from the recruiter, don't get angry; just move on. Don't completely write off that recruiter though - I can tell you from experience it is literally impossible to reply to everyone who applies. Second, realize your best chance of getting a job that might be below your qualifications is really to be hired directly by the client. That removes the recruiter from the process (and the recruiter worrying about doing a lot of work for nothing) and removes the fee the client would pay for hiring you. Work your network (since you have years of industry experience, you should have a great network!).

Another idea and this is something I do with my "overqualified candidates," is to try and help them find positions even if I don't get paid for it. Crazy, right? Try and find some good, ethical, senior recruiters in your area and get to know them. If they are truly senior recruiters, they should have a long-term view of the hiring process. I refer candidates to my competition for clients with whom we don't work, help candidates write resumes, refer them to managers I know who might be hiring, etc. Why? Well, I like helping people. And only slightly less than that, I hope you, the overqualified candidate, will think of me when you want to hire people in the future.