A reader writes:
I am applying for jobs after a short gap due to personal reasons. At one company I am interested in, there are 2 positions open - a senior position (two years of experience required in "finance or accounting or related experience") and a junior position (no experience required). I have the "related experience" in economics. But I am concerned that another candidate's more directly related finance experience may outweigh my experience in economics. So should I apply to the junior position and risk being rejected for being overqualified? Do I write in the cover letter that I am applying for both positions? Should I call up HR and ask them to clarify? What would you suggest?
I would apply for the more senior position. However, it's fine to note that you aren't sure if your experience is precisely what they're seeking for that position, and that you'd like to be considered for the other position if in their opinion it's a better match.
Now, if they're good at hiring, this is almost unnecessary because they may funnel you toward the opening that's most appropriate for you anyway. I email candidates all the time to say, "Hey, I don't think you're a strong match with Job X, but would you like to be considered for Job Y?" But of course you can't count on people doing that, so you'll cover your bases by doing it for them.
I think some people might say that you're under-selling yourself by expressing openness to a lower level position. But I think it just says that you recognize that they know the needs of the positions best at this stage, and you're deferring to their more in-depth knowledge. Good luck!