Overqualified? Why Work Experience Makes You a Good Candidate


This is another Q&A in our "Ask a Recruiter" series by Kathleen Downs, a vice president at Robert Half Finance & Accounting.

Q: I’m looking for a new job in finance and accounting after years of working in the industry. Should I worry about appearing overqualified? 

A: An employer may be reluctant to hire you if you’re so obviously overqualified that you may not stay long, or you won’t be happy, or you may demand more money than the position pays. You may have to address those concerns to convince the interviewer that you’re genuinely interested in the position and would make a good fit.

But don’t forget that with your work experience, you may have the expertise to provide mentorship or serve as a sounding board and voice of reason for other employees in the organization who may be struggling to find their footing in the finance world. You can share your insight and knowledge with colleagues who are less experienced and help them anticipate issues in the future — and that is something employers would appreciate.

Q: What else can I do to stand out to employers?

A: As a finance professional with experience, you have a track record that can help pave the way to your next position, especially if your work history is strong. If you’ve been at an organization for many years, you may be known for your sense of loyalty, which is a trait employers value.

But even with your work experience, you’ll need to jump through a few hoops by taking some essential steps:

• Craft an effective resume using keywords to minimize the chances of your resume getting filtered out and also data to support the results you achieved in past positions.

• Join the conversation. CFOs engage on social media, and so should you. You can use the various channels, from LinkedIn to Twitter, to connect professionally and personally, gain perspectives from other finance leaders, and even become a more strategic leader.

• When you get to the interview, highlight specific examples of your past successes, and use them to showcase your strengths.

• But don’t stay there. Move ahead to market yourself for the position in which you’re applying. Practice your personal branding statement, which will help you stand out from the crowd.

Q: What other advice do you have for experienced job seekers?

A: It’s likely you have valuable industry experience as well as in-demand technical and soft skills. That means once you’ve learned the organization’s software and procedures, your employer can rely on you to get the job done — and get it done right. It also doesn’t hurt to showcase that you are on top of trends impacting your industry and can relate to the rest of the staff.

Throughout your job search, though, it’s important to make sure you don’t let your extensive knowledge unravel your chances of landing a position. Employers prize employees who are flexible and willing to adapt to an organization’s ways of tackling finance procedures and operations. They will also be more open to candidates who support their initiatives.

If you can demonstrate that you are open-minded, pleasant to work with and adaptable — and that you’re a fit with the requirements of the finance job description — you can increase your chances of landing the job you’re after, one that may have the potential to become an even-higher-level position.

Kathy DownsKathleen Downs, a vice president with Robert Half Finance & Accounting, started with the company in 2000. Before that, she was CEO of a recreation/retail/education organization in Bonn, Germany. Kathleen is actively involved with a number of professional organizations within the finance and accounting field and sits on several not-for-profit boards. She writes the Ask a Recruiter column on this blog.

Are you an experienced finance and accounting professional on a job search? Share your experiences in the comments.

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