Skip to main Content

Shunned by employers because you’re ‘overqualified’? Sharpen your cover letter.

  • Author: Lynne Curry
    | Alaska Workplace
  • Updated: September 16, 2019
  • Published September 16, 2019

Q: I’ve just received my third “We’re sorry, but you’re overqualified” rejection for a job I really wanted. I’m not even given a chance to interview. I held a senior position at a large oil company and had an impressive title and salary, but was downsized and I’ve been making zero dollars for six months.

I want to stay in Alaska and I’d be grateful to have a decent job that would let me do that. How do I stop scaring off potential employers who look at my resume and tell me they don’t think I’ll stay in a job that’s “beneath” me.

A: When you or any other applicant has a job history that scares off a prospective employer, you need to proactively address the issue in your cover letter.

Since you know you’re being turned down because employers fear you’ll leave a lower-status, lower-paid job as soon as the economy turns around, explain your thinking in enough detail that you answer an employer’s potential fears. This means you need a stronger statement than “oil companies have downsized and I want to stay in Alaska,” as this leaves open the question of whether you’ll leave the position as soon as a senior status position opens up.

Here’s how you can do this when you apply for the next job that interests you. Make it clear in your cover letter what it was about the job that appeals to you. Research both the job and organization so you can clearly describe how the job matches your experience and interests and what draws you to want to work for the organization. Employers want to hire someone who wants “their” job, not “a” job.

If you get a chance to interview, make sure you address any hidden objections the hiring manager might hold. For example, a prospective employer may worry that you overestimate your willingness to work hard for a lower salary than you formerly earned. Share with the employer that you’ve reviewed your budget and the salary range offered meets your needs. Because the hiring interviewer may wonder if you consider the job as a “stopgap,” outline what about it interests you for the long haul.

Some employers worry that applicants with turbocharged resumes won’t willingly handle routine job duties or “play well with others.” Address this and substantiate it with letters of reference that vouch for your willingness to roll up your sleeves and work hard in any job and handle any duties.

Finally, not all job openings show up in the newspaper or on job websites. Reach out to your network and ask for leads and ask if they’ll make a call to pave the way for your resume.

Q: I’m the oldest person in my department. Some of my younger coworkers, all men, want to turn me into mother confessor. I don’t mind it and have learned how to politely exit conversations when one or another of them pulls me aside to share too much information, but a new situation has cropped up that makes me mad.

One of the younger guys twice showed me pictures of women on Tinder who pose with almost no clothing. I told him “not my type, thanks” and thought that would be the end of it. This morning, he came up to me at the coffee stand and said, “I’m glad it’s you, because you’re of a certain age; let me show you the photo I took this morning of the new woman in Accounting.” He put his cell right in front of my face and showed me her nude torso in his bed. I was so angry I couldn’t talk. If he does something like this again, how do I stop him?

A: You need to shut him down. When he commented on your age and showed you a semi-nude picture, he insulted you. Tell him, “Don’t ever do that again.” You can also report him to senior management or HR. He’s clearly out of line and an accident waiting to happen.