Why are overqualified candidates struggling to secure marketing roles?



While 53,500 new marketing positions may have been available in the UK last year and in excess of 18,000 unfilled Executive Marketing roles, employers are still reluctant to consider taking on overqualified candidates. 

It is easy to assume that businesses would jump at the chance to take on marketing professionals who can bring considerable experience and expertise to their company and that having them in a more junior role would be a bonus. However, even though the war for talent continues to pose problems for recruiters, many companies prefer to tackle the issue by focusing on the retention of their current staff rather than filling their vacancies with overqualified marketeers. 

This is largely because many employers believe that someone overqualified may not stay in a role for long, meaning the company will have to start their job search all over again, which can be costly, time-consuming and continue to leave them short-staffed.

This creates issues for many highly qualified marketing professionals who may have lost their jobs or suffered burnout during Covid, or could be looking for a new role for various reasons and ending up with gaps on their CVs if they can't get a job at a lower level.

Why overqualified candidates are often rejected

At an interview, it can often feel flattering to be told you are overqualified for a role; however, the novelty can soon wear off if you struggle to find suitable employment. Some of the main reasons employers are reluctant to consider overqualified candidates include: 

  • Concerns that the candidate may leave quickly because they find the role is not challenging enough
  • Perceived issues around salary expectations based on previous employment, which might be out of the company's budget
  • Apprehension about the ability of older candidates to be able to adapt to a new and more junior role
  • Issues which could arise from a highly experienced candidate working with a less qualified team and, in some cases, working for a less experienced manager

None of these issues apply to many candidates' real situations, but the perception that overqualified marketers come with this baggage can lead employers to reject them immediately.

What to do about it

To combat the preconceptions, addressing the fact that you are aware that you are overqualified before you are asked about it is advisable. This can be in a covering letter, on an application form, or, if you get to the interview stage, you should mention it before the interviewer does. 

Explaining what motivates you to apply for a more junior role can alleviate an organisation's concerns about your suitability. It could be that you want a change of direction and need to gain more experience in a particular industry, perhaps you are relocating and would be happy to take on a more junior role in a new area, or maybe you have taken a career break to start a family and now feel that you would like a job with better work/life balance. 

Try to ensure that you describe what excites you about the new role to highlight that you won't become bored quickly and also talk about how your experience and skills can benefit your potential new employer.

If you have been job hunting for some time, you may have a gap in your CV. Always be honest about spaces in your work history and include details of what you have been doing with the time, such as volunteering or personal development training. Please find out more about managing a gap on your CV in our blog dedicated to this topic.

If you are highly experienced, you may also have so much information on your CV that it can be off-putting to a recruiter and instantly identify you as overqualified. In this case, removing less relevant jobs is recommended so hiring managers can focus on why your skills would be suitable for the role to which you have applied.

If you have a LinkedIn profile, consider how to present yourself. Perhaps update your information to show the skills and experience that match your aspiring roles rather than your entire job history.

Creating a win-win situation

There is no doubt that there is a disadvantage for both candidates and employers when rejecting overqualified marketeers. The candidate is applying for the job because they are genuinely interested in taking on the role. Companies can miss out on top-quality talent by automatically assuming they are not suitable for the position. 

Hopefully, as we look to the future, employers will realise that overqualified candidates can offer skills, experience and a suitable solution to their recruitment needs, allowing professional marketeers to secure the jobs they are applying for.

If you're looking for your next marketing role or need the right marketing talent to join your team, contact McGregor Boyall today and find out how our expert recruiters can help you.