scale balancing a clock and money

QUESTION: I have recently stepped down from leadership roles and now want a job without such responsibility. How do I overcome being viewed as “overqualified”?

Jessica Visek

It is certainly possible and would require a rebranding of your experience, skills, and other relevant qualifications. You would also need to be very deliberate in your search and identify opportunities that clearly articulate the job’s level.

Grant Cooper, Strategic Resumes & Business Plans

Employers strive to hire the most qualified candidates available. The term “overqualified” is often used as a polite rejection for those who are otherwise unsuitable. In the case of applying to a much lower position than is indicated by your work history, collaborate with a career coach in developing a persuasive transition statement and resume strategy explaining why you are seeking a step down.

Scot Hulshizer, The Career Expert

There is no such thing as “overqualified” which is a word that is often used to describe the fear that someone will be “under-interested” or (“too expensive.”) You should be proud of what you’ve done, but craft your resume and cover letter in a way that showcase your strengths using examples that correlate with your next role instead of demonstrating how successful you were in your last position.​

Mary Jo King, Alliance Résumé & Writing Service

Hiring authorities are tasked with finding the best qualified person they can afford, and this can work to your advantage with a strategic approach. Those who do not appreciate the scope of your experience are likely afraid you will become bored and leave the company. Communicate your situation carefully–albeit briefly–in your cover letter and underscore your interest in a permanent role.

Teena Rose

Stepping back in position means your resume scope needs to step back as well. This can feel out of sorts for those who areaccustomed to boasting their biggest results and successes in their resumes. Adjusting job roles, titles, and so on, can help softenthose over-the-top leadership skills.

Louise Duffield

Being viewed as “overqualified” can be a strength so when you are speaking with recruiters and hiring managers you should sell yourself as the best person for the job because you are “well qualified” for the role. Focus on your rich knowledge and expertise you bring to the table but also ensure you address the elephant in the room and explain why you are taking a step down from leadership roles.

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3 pyramids with middle one having a lighter top third

QUESTION: I heard that the top third of the resume is the most important? Why and what do I put there to have the most impact?

Carol Adams, Ideal Resumes, LLC

The top third of your resume is your chance to draw the reader in and brand yourself as a qualified candidate for a specific role. It should include a job title (target title), an overview of your capabilities in the field/role, and specific examples of your successes in that field/role. You can also include a skills list here to get in critical keywords and make it easy for the reader to scan.


Laura Slawson, The Creative Advantage Freelance Writing Service, LLC

The top-third really counts, it needs to read quickly, be interesting, grab the reader’s attention, and entice them to keep reading. To create impact, bold/cap the title you’re seeking, compose an interesting 4-line branding statement that shows what you offer, and create a core competencies section for hard skills and to pack the resume full of professional keywords. No fluff here!

Alana Henry, The Writique, LLC

The top 1/3 of your resume should include your name, tagline, and your professional summary or selected accomplishments. This space is used to establish your personal brand and present your unique value proposition (UVP), so use keywords that highlight your target industry, professional acumen, and potential benefit to an employer. Include contact info too, but focus most on a strong UVP.

Anne Barnwell

Six seconds. That’s how long a recruiter will look at your resume before they decide to keep reading or pass. In that time, their eyes will not stray from the top third of your resume. Highlight two or three accomplishments that set you apart from other candidates and are related to the job. Make the information short and easy to scan in order to grab and keep their attention.

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