How to Make Sure You’re Not Overqualified for a Role

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Do you know how to tell if you’re overqualified for a position? Many job descriptions sound very similar, even if they are for roles at different levels within an organization. Also, common titles such as analyst, specialist and manager can mean completely different things and command vastly different salaries, depending on the company. When you also consider the fact that many job descriptions today are multiple pages long, the process can seem very confusing.

In a recent BioSpace poll, some life science professionals mentioned they were working in positions that they are overqualified for, based on their education and experience. As a result, the individuals were frustrated and uncertain of what to do. After accepting a position you’re overqualified for, the best course of action is to find strategic ways to demonstrate your worth in the workplace. Through effectively showing your value, you might be able to position yourself for a promotion and/or a raise. However, it is usually a better to determine if you’re not a good fit for the position before accepting it. Here are five ways to make sure you’re not overqualified for a role!

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Skip to the requirements section of a job description first

Before reading a potentially long list of job duties, read the requirements section. If you have a Ph.D. and the position only requires an undergraduate degree, you should start heavily scrutinizing the decision to apply. While this could sound obvious, some professionals with Ph.D.s have experienced being hired for positions where they are doing technician-level work. In addition to education, analyze the years of experience and focus area requirements of the job. If you far exceed what is being requested, that is another sign you could be overqualified.

Review the preferences

Most job postings also include aspects that are preferred for candidates to have. Special training, skills, credentials and industry knowledge might be mentioned within a description. If you are targeting higher-level roles, positions that are a good fit might outline an extensive list of preferences. On the other hand, if there is a small list of preferences, the chances of you being overqualified generally increase. What are some common preferences you’ve observed in relevant job descriptions?

Compare the roles / responsibilities to your ideal position

When making a determination on the right fit of a job, it's best to have a clear idea of the role you’re targeting. Many people think of this as a “dream job” or an ideal position. Find a description online that looks like a perfect fit for you, copy the description and save it somewhere for easy access. Compare the responsibilities from that ideal position to the other jobs you’re considering applying for. This is helps you stay focused on important details during the job search. While having an example for comparison is important, be sure to remain open to positions that might appear slightly different or have another area of focus.

Search for salary information

When many people think of being overqualified for a role, salary and compensation are one of the first things that come to mind. Unfortunately, most job descriptions no longer include salary expectations, requiring a bit more effort to estimate these details. It’s common for the same job title to command different salaries depending on the organization. To estimate a salary, search online databases for salary information based on your geographic region, education and level of experience. Then compare this to what salary information you can find on the specific organization. You probably won’t discover exact figures, but this effort can help you decide if the salary range you deduce is equitable with what you have to offer.

Ask targeted questions during the interview

As a final step, asking some targeted questions during an interview can confirm whether or not you are overqualified for a role. Who would this position report to? What level of support would be available to ensure completion of job responsibilities? Can you tell me about the background of other people who were successful in this role? Those types of questions and the corresponding answers can be helpful in your decision-making process. What are some other questions you could ask that might be in alignment with your ideal position?

When going through a job search, it can be difficult to tell if you are overqualified for a role. There are some steps you can take to avoid wasting your time or accepting a position that isn’t a good fit. When looking through a job description, skip to the requirements section first. If you are satisfied with the requirements, find the preferences listed for the job. Compare the job responsibilities to an ideal description you have. Proactively searching for salary details online can also help you gauge your interest level. During an interview, asking a series of targeted questions can provide necessary insight. How will you ensure that you aren’t overqualified for your next position?

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. (https://www.fly-highcoaching.com) She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

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