What to Do if You’re Overqualified for an Accounting Job


Whether it’s because you’re a layoff casualty, or looking to make a career change, sometimes you’re overqualified for the finance or accounting job that you want to land. Unfortunately, to hiring managers or HR professionals, an overqualified applicant can raise red flags. 

Here’s what to do to secure the role you’re interested in.

What The Hiring Manager is Thinking

  • A person who is overqualified can do the job, but will they become bored?
  • Will the overqualified person fit in with my existing team, or will they disrupt it?
  • I can hire an underqualified person and coach them
  • The overqualified person may not stay and then I am back to square one

Pro Tip: Put yourself in their shoes. What would it take for you to hire someone who is overqualified? To a hiring manager an overqualified person brings risk to team dynamics and culture. This makes your soft skills even more critical. You must position yourself as someone who is humble and who can integrate with the team.

The Resume 
Let’s review the good news first –  if an employer is using applicant tracking software and your resume ticks all of the boxes, it’s likely to make it past the first round.  

Eventually, however, it will land in someone’s hands. 

What does this mean for your job search prospects? 

  1. Ensure that the necessary skills and experience outlined in the job posting are echoed in your resume. Don’t misrepresent yourself. It’s an ethical misstep that can sabotage your chances of landing the role. 
  2. Focus your resume on how you can help the employer. Highlight how your experience makes you efficient, and able to deliver more effectively than a junior employee. 
  3. Each role on your resume should have an accomplishments section. Customize this area so that your accomplishments match what is emphasized in the job posting.  
  4. Jeffrey Fox, author of Don’t Send a Resume, suggests the following – if possible, go directly to the hiring manager (via LinkedIn for example) and make a pitch about your skill set.  Recruiters will often take this approach, but caution that timing is everything. A message at quarter-end could be annoying, whereas reaching out during a slow time could be effective.

Pro tip: Need help with your resume? Then read this blog.

Cover Letter 
A cover letter fills in the blanks that a resume cannot. Explain why you want to work for the company. Be genuine and specific. If it’s an industry shift or career change, highlight transferable skills and a willingness to learn. Communicate that you’re hard-working and highly adaptable. Don’t be afraid to offer a specific instance of how you added value in a previous role.

Pro Tip:  If you want to send a resume and cover letter directly, make sure to send it to the talent person at the company.

ReadThe Best Cover Letter We Ever Received” for tips on writing a cover letter that gets you noticed.

In the Interview

  • Salary – Employers are concerned about paying for bells and whistles that they don’t need. Educate yourself on current market conditions by taking a look at websites like glassdoor.ca.  Make salary expectations clear, and explain why you would be willing to take less money. 
  • Turnover concerns – Organizations might wonder if you’re just biding your time, waiting for a role that’s more suitable for your skill set. You’ll need to explain why the role and company make sense as strategic career choices. Consider a willingness to openly commit to a longer term for the role.
  • Addressing employer concerns – Don’t directly raise concerns about being overqualified during the interview.  Instead, ask “Are there questions about my candidacy that I can address right now?” Make sure that you’ve prepared and researched the company thoroughly.

Layoffs, Career Changes and Moves
Layoff Casualty 

The temptation can be to find take whatever’s available, including something below your experience level. But HR people are wary of candidates with your story, so don’t just apply to a role because you’re desperate, apply to positions that will help you grow your skill set, or gain experience in a function or industry. 

Pro Tip: If you’ve experienced a layoff, the first step is to apply to roles at your current level. Then take a look at lower level jobs in other industries. An industry change can justify taking a step down in order to gain experience. Similarly, if you come from a small company, search out roles in larger organizations. People understand needing to sacrifice in order to gain big company experience.

Career Change 
A career change can sometimes demand a lateral move or step down. Naturally, a new industry or career comes with a steep learning curve. Always operate from a posture of service and a desire to learn in your interview. The more self-awareness you show, the more people will be willing to hire you.  

A Move 
Maybe you want to come to Canada, or your spouse has been hired for her dream job? Whatever the reason, it’s important to explain why both the move and role excite you. Essentially, hiring managers need to be assured that this job is more than just a placeholder while you search for something better. 

Key Takeaways
Are you overqualified for a role that you want? Are you looking to change careers, or get back in the door after a layoff? Choose roles and companies that make sense for your career at this juncture. Hiring managers are interested in purposeful career choices, where the candidate is excited by the role, can add value and exhibits self-awareness. Research the organization. Make sure that your resume reflects the skills in the job posting. Write a cover letter that explains why the role or company makes sense as a career choice. Carry that messaging through into the interview and have success stories prepared. Show that you’re willing to invest in an organization, so that they, in turn, will be willing to invest in you.

Your Next Step
No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.

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