In the 1999 film, American Beauty, a disturbed and frustrated Kevin Spacey quits his high-paying position, and obtains a job at the local fast food restaurant. The manager twice his junior is extremely reluctant to hire this extremely overqualified individual. Why would someone who has a job others covet want to take a step down?

There are many reasons job seekers extend their search for employment.  Maybe they are unhappy with the amount of responsibility and stress that their job brings. Perhaps family or other circumstances have them looking for a job with less of a time commitment.  For many, however, job search expansion is a direct result of the fiscal climate we are living in.  When weeks of applying and searching turn to months, and finally it’s time to look beyond a lateral or step-up position.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for March 2013, 39.6 percent of unemployed workers have been searching for more than 27 weeks and 28.7 percent (roughly 3 million people) have been job-hunting for more than a year.

The problem with this type of job search is that overqualified candidates tend to make some employers squeamish about taking on an employee that is seemingly too talented.  A recent Forbes article, How To Get a Job If You’re Overqualified, provides a few suggestions. Whether you are expanding your job search after a long and difficult hunt, or you are looking to slow down your pace, landing a lower paying position can often be tricky. This may have potential employers asking the following questions.

Is this a book or a resume?

Although a lengthy resume can explain an illustrious and established career, it can often scare off would-be bosses.  Trimming your resume and emphasizing specific skills is more helpful than listing the details of every well-developed project you’ve prepared.  You shouldn’t hide your past experience, but choose the information that you emphasize.  For example, if you are applying for a technical position in writing, your writing skills and hands-on capabilities may be more important to emphasize than managerial skills you’ve acquired.  Although, if you’re interested in moving up in the company later, it may be beneficial to highlight these skills in the interview.

How can I afford to pay this salary?

Some employers may worry that a highly qualified individual expects a salary that is out of their budget’s reach.  Unfortunately, this causes some candidates to be overlooked.  Money is a touchy subject in an interview.  An interviewee should never be the one to bring it up, but should be honest about expectations when asked.  When asked, a good answer may be, “I’d like to be paid what the position is worth in the marketplace,” or “I am willing to negotiate a fair salary for this position.”

Is this person settling until something better comes along?

Another fear of a potential employer is losing an employee soon after hiring them.  The hiring process is not only tiresome and lengthy for the job seeker, but also for the hiring official.  While obtaining a quality employee is important, keeping turnover low is also a priority.  This saves the company time and money in the long run.  When interviewing, it is important to emphasize a desire to move within the company.  Although overqualified for one position, getting a foot in the door is sometimes worth even more.  A temporary pay cut can often lead to a higher paying position as many employers prefer to hire from within.

Although taking a step back can be a humbling experience, in many cases it is a smart and necessary move.  Whether it is due to a life change or a need for a broader job search, being overqualified is not a hindrance.  Instead it should be thought of as an opportunity to grow and contribute.  In the long run over-qualification could be your best chance to overcome.

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Erika Wonn is a communications analyst and proud veteran in Washington, DC.