I have a PhD and whenever I apply for a librarian job I am told that I am overqualified for this position. How can I overcome this barrier?
When they say you are overqualified, it probably means:
- They are afraid that someone with a Ph. D. will demand a higher salary than they can afford to pay;
- They are afraid that you will get bored with the job and quit after a few months because the work won't be challenging / intellectually stimulating for someone with a Ph. D.
So, in your cover letter, you have to tell a good story that addresses the above two items (i.e., tell them why you know you will love this job and not get bored with it). If you search around on google, you can find many articles / blog posts giving more detail.
Some ideas are:
Apply to better libraries. I doubt that the Bodleian Library has a problem with PhDs.
Apply for other jobs that are a good match for your qualifications. Some libraries hire Researchers, and an advanced degree might be a help there. Such people help others find obscure resources. And, of course, academic jobs are made for you. Perhaps there are high level, busy, academics who would hire you as a researcher. This could be a pathway for an academic position of your own.
Finally, I was once in a similar situation (I assume) in which jobs were very scarce at my level and was advised by a professional employment advisor to prepare a CV that mentioned my MA degree, but not my PhD. Some employers would be more comfortable hiring someone with lesser qualifications than more. Sad, but true.
I hope this is only necessary as a fill in while you work out a career that does, in fact, match your qualifications. Good luck.
I've seen this a few times where hiring panels have given the response of 'overqualified for the position' as a slightly dishonest cop-out answer to avoid giving more accurate feedback. In these cases, what is actually meant is 'we don't think your academic experience is valuable in this workplace environment, and may actually be detrimental'.
Note that I'm coming from an engineering/computer science perspective, and experiences may be different in other fields, but often there is a stark difference between academic and commercial practices in the same industry. Someone who has advanced to the point of achieving a PhD may be seen as being too ingrained in the academic world to adapt to the commercial environment. This could be the balance between doing their work perfectly and doing their work quickly, for example.
The other case is sometimes that a person is very qualified in an academic sense, but has very little workplace experience, even outside of the industry they're qualified in. Some academics have never worked outside of a university, and there is a good chance that someone who has never worked at any job will take quite some adjusting to a working environment. This is a risk employers can avoid by hiring someone less academically qualified (if the qualifications are unnecessary) but with more working experience.
It sounds like in your case, you're applying for a role where your PhD isn't valued, so you may need to explore what else is on your resume. Would your resume impress a prospective employer even if your PhD wasn't mentioned at all? Have you included things that will be valued - such as working experience, even if not in the industry you're applying for? This could be part-time work done while you were studying, particularly any internships or secondments.
Lastly, it could be helpful to demonstrate (either through an application letter or in an interview) that you understand what the daily duties are of the role you're applying for, and importantly how they are different from your experiences in academia.
You could simply leave the fact that you have a Ph.D. off of your résumé:
If your Ph.D. was 100% inside a university, you could mention it as work/internship (it that matches the contract you had).
If your Ph.D. was done in cooperation with a company, you can simply mention your experience at the company.
For someone applying for a librarian job a gap in the CV doesn't seem inadmissible either.
Well, the resume should be tailored to each individual job you apply for anyways, because you are trying to use it to show yourself in the best light with relevance to each individual position.
So the question is, is your PhD relevant to the librarian position? If it is, I'd leave it on there and see how you could leverage the skills to stand out among other candidates for the librarian position. But most likely it isn't, so you'd be better off leaving it off the resume, especially if you could easily replace it with something that is (much) more relevant to the librarian position that you are applying for.