What to Do When Your Resume Makes You Look Overqualified

(U.S. Navy)

If you’ve done everything you can to create your resume and translate your military skills to the outside world, you’re on the road to getting a great post-military job. But now some troops may have another, less common problem: looking overqualified.

Read: From Military to Civilian: Resume Translation

Since the average enlistment lasts about 15 years, it’s safe to say military personnel leaving the service and entering the civilian workforce could look to employers like they have too much education and work experience. To the applicant, this may not seem like a problem. But to the employer, it can be a big red flag.

Overqualified people can be a big hassle to a company. Once in a job, they tend to think of the work they were hired to do as beneath them and refuse to do the work. They also tend to continue their hunt for something befitting their experience, leaving their new job as soon as they can and creating a major headache for an employer. And a person who isn’t challenged by their work may not be fully engaged, dragging down the quality of life and morale for the whole team.

For an employer the solution is to pass by applicants who seem overqualified.

As a job seeker, you want to avoid that trap. The solutions are to either aim a little bit higher in the company or career field just in case you really are overqualified, or to tone your sparkling resume down a little bit. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method.

Tone It Down a Bit

The military provides unparalleled training and development opportunities for young people throughout their military career. As troops spend more time in the military, the services provide even more leadership experience and development education. When translated to the civilian world, it can make for an impressive resume to be proud of.

With that in mind, it may not feel good to take out some of the things accomplished over the course of a career, no matter how long it might have been. While you might see it as erasing accomplishments, remember that you need to get a career started in a new world -- and looking a little less cool is what it might take. Once you get into a company, you can always add that great stuff back in later.

As you edit down your resume, all you’re really doing is what everyone should do when applying for a job anywhere: tailoring your resume to fit the needs of the position, using the keywords the HR person or hiring manager will be looking for. As a young veteran, you don’t need to include all your leadership training. You just need to demonstrate that you have the qualification necessary to do the job.

When it’s time to move up in your civilian career, that’s when you start adding the rest of the great education and training you received in the military -- so long as it fits the parameters of the position.

Go For a Higher Position

This option is a little riskier, and not always the best fit -- especially if you are a younger veteran.

Many recruiters say their number one hesitation in hiring veterans is that some young vets will not accept that they have to start over for a little while and work their way back up.

For young veterans with impressive, well translated experience, looking overqualified for the job will keep them out of junior positions. The result? They don’t have the chance to learn what the civilian world is like for a young professional. Yes in most of these same cases, the education and experience of a newly-separated veteran will also not add up to a next-tier role as a low-level supervisor or manager.

This combination of forces is certain to keep those veterans with a lot of experience inside the military and a great resume translating it and out of a job.

For those mid-career veterans leaving the service, however, there will be a chance to aim a little bit higher instead of toning down their resume. The additional education, training, certifications and the actual experience of managing people does have a civilian life counterpart -- you just need to know how to write that into your resume.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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