What To Do If You’re “Overqualified”

May 31 2011 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg


How many of you have been turned town for a job, told that “you’re overqualified?”

I find that many of you get so frustrated by this answer, because something isn’t being communicated – either the employer doesn’t get that you really want to take a step down (for some good reasons), or because you don’t believe that “overqualified” is the true reason you’ve been turned down.

Employers are partially to blame for this, using overqualified in a similar way that teenagers say “it’s not you, it’s me”, using passive-aggressive communication to avoid an uncomfortable situation but masking the true reasons.

If you’re sick of hearing this, I like some of the tactics that Robin Ryan suggests in this article, published a few years back in TheLadders:

“How To Handle ‘You’re Overqualified’ In Interviews
What should you do if your qualifications outstrip the job?
By Robin Ryan

It seems I continually hear this complaint,’They aren’t hiring me because I’m overqualified.’ One man e-mailed me about this problem:

‘I have a lot of incredible extracurricular professional activities, publishing expertise, project management experience, board leadership skills, etc. I have an MBA, and am a CPA. All of this info is on my resume because it sets me apart. However, I am concerned that people are viewing me as overqualified for lower-level jobs and eliminating me. Yet, the jobs I am truly qualified for are fairly high up and there are only a handful of openings. Help!’

So what should you do if you’re credentialed with good experience and advanced education, are looking to become re-employed and are even willing to take a lower-level position? Here are a few tips:

Don’t Be Tempted to ‘Dumb Down!’

This strategy moves your career backward. You typically end up frustrated, not hired or worse — you find a new job you can’t wait to move out of. Most employers today actually want you working at your highest ability level since productivity is key to everyone’s success. They also want to retain you past the many months it takes to train you for the job, so you can begin to make a contribution to the company.

Do Some Soul Searching and Savvy Preparation.

Acknowledge that employers are reluctant to hire a person who is overqualified because they think the person is unlikely to be happy, won’t stay long, might want the interviewer’s job or may expect fast promotion. Remember that you can be threatening to the interviewer, especially if you are truly suited for the interviewer’s job! He may think you aren’t seriously interested in doing the job for which you’re being hired — nor do employers want someone who’s burned out or sees the job as an easy paycheck.

Examine why you want the position. ‘I need a job!’ is not a response that will endear you to him. You must use your communication skills to convince him why a demotion is a good option. You must create a reasonable explanation. Try this:

‘My current position as Regional Sales Manager requires me to cover 14 states, and the job had grown into 15 nights of travel per month. This has become an increasingly difficult sacrifice for my family. I have decided to seek a major accounts-rep position that allows me to focus on my strengths — selling, sustaining top-notch client relationships and up-selling — but also allows me to go home most evenings. This is not an option at my current job. It requires a lot of out-of-town travel to do the job, which I am no longer willing to do. I believe my extensive marketing and sales skills would greatly benefit your organization in a positive way. I see this as a win/win situation for both of us.’

Don’t Show Desperation.

You may feel it, but it will work against your getting hired if you show how frantic you are to get a job. Too often an executive says, ‘I’ll start at any job just to get my foot in the door.’ That won’t work — it’s an outdated strategy. Being willing to take any job often makes the interviewer disqualify you. She needs a competent person to perform the specific job she’s hiring for.

So, you must show not only that you can do it but also that you want to do it. You can offer some advantages, gained from your experience, such as: ‘My ability to solve problems and train others would be a major plus in the position.’ Many employers are slow to hire, yet pay well when they select someone for the position, so patience is essential.

Look Harder for Positions for Which You Are Qualified.

Employers want a good fit and an individual who delivers results. Customize every cover letter you write and tweak your resume to match the opportunity. Be sure to address the major needs required and demonstrate results you’ve achieved in line with the level requested. A former CEO at a smaller company might only be a midlevel executive at a larger organization, so be clear as to how you’re leveraging past experience and leadership to help a potential employer excel.

Networking Is Key to Hearing About and Landing a New Job.

Ask colleagues, friends, former employees, college alumni, and other contacts for referrals to new people who can help you uncover unadvertised positions. An introduction to a senior executive can open new doors and even create a job when no advertised one was available. Department of Labor statistics reveal that 63 percent of all jobs last year (2007) were found through contacts, so network, network, NETWORK!

Original article by Robin Ryan of TheLadders at: http://hr.theladders.com/career-advice/how-to-handle-youre-overqualified-interviews?

As a former recruiter, I get a little better sense of why employers use the “O” word (and I don’t mean Oprah).

    Here are some reasons you’ve gotten the “O” word” that you can influence:

  1. Energy Level: This is something you can control. Make sure you work in time to exercise while you are job searching – you’ll give a sense of greater natural energy.
  2. Appearance: Dress nicely and appropriately for the specific work environment and job you are trying to get (You probably don’t want to wear a suit into Facebook, nor wear shorts when interviewing with a bank). Two separate studies have shown that hiring decisions are made within the first 2 – 30 seconds of an interview (see http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/06/18/see-how-easily-you-can-master-non-verbal-interviewing-best-of-recareered/)
  3. Being non-current: You can control this also. Use current tools – Activity on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter is the bare minimum (No, just setting up a barebones profile and without using it isn’t enough). Be findable on Google. If you want to erase any concerns about being up to date, create content to post to your blog, Linkedin/Facebook group, YouTube account, online radio show … you get the idea.
  4. Appearing hands-off: Make sure you can demonstrate detailed working knowledge of MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook to an intermediate/advanced level – saying “your people handled it”, or you can “learn it on the job” won’t fly. If your people really did handle it, get yourself certified in the current version of MS Office.
  5. Fit: Some companies just don’t hire anyone over 40. You can control this by not applying to those companies. It’s easy to tell – these are the companies who have very few (if any) people on their staff over 40. If you don’t see anyone over 40, and can’t find anyone at the company over 40 using social networking, it’s a good bet that’s because they aren’t hiring people over 40 (Think Facebook, Groupon, and other companies where the founder is in their 20’s). Look at the ages of the companies executives – that’s usually your first clue.
  6. Your resume encourages ageism: If your resume makes you appear out of touch, non-current, not-hands on, non-detail oriented, like a chief rather than an indian, lists accomplishments that are clearly overqualified for the job, yadda-yadda-yadda, then change your resume to reflect a specific employer’s needs for the specific position you’re applying for.
  7. I’m not suggesting you “dumb it down”, but list accomplishments that are relevant to the problems and needs of the hiring manager. If the hiring manager doesn’t need the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, list the less glamorous (and maybe minor) accomplishments of your past experience. So if the specific employer’s needs are to manage less crucial expenses, maybe you could explain how you saved thousands by switching to a new overnight delivery vendor or copier supplier (rather than talk about how you increased share price by buying and selling business units).

    There are also some less controllable reasons that lurk in the back of hiring managers’ minds:

  8. Little brother/sis syndrome: Some hiring managers want to hire someone they can mentor and feel more comfortable in mentoring a 20 year old than someone old enough to be their parent.
  9. Political fear: Other hiring managers may be concerned that a more senior employee will be after their job or make them look bad.
  10. Employer’s prior experience: Some hiring managers have had past experiences with more senior employees who couldn’t/wouldn’t change past patterns. This situation seldom ends well.
  11. Legal concerns: 20 year old’s seldom are successful in suing for age discrimination. Then again, fewer 50 year old’s sue for sexual harassment.
  12. Concern over expense: Even if you are willing to take a pay cut, it’s tough to get a hiring manager to believe you’ll be happy with this over the long term. Hiring managers often fear that even if you take a pay cut now, you won’t be happy until you get back to your former pay levels – because it’s human nature. They fear that you’ll leave once the job market improves, seeking higher salary but also fear that more senior candidates may incur higher long term medical expenses, sick/vacation time needs. Sure, you can try to convince a hiring manager that this isn’t the case with you, but when the employer has a past history of disenfranchised (or ex) employees in your age demographic who didn’t work out, it’s tough to explain that you’re the exception.
  13. Passive-aggressiveness: Employers and HR reps don’t want to deal with drama, nor do they want to spend the time to hear you plead your case again of why you’re willing to take a lower position. It’s easier to just give the vague reason of “overqualified”.

Candidates: Please share what you think is the real reason you’ve been turned down as “overqualified”.

Employers and Recruiters: What do you see as the underlying reasons you won’t hire candidates you consider “overqualified”?

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Source: http://reCareered.com
Author: Phil Rosenberg

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