In this blog post we're looking at tried and tested techniques for getting around a prospective employer's objections that you're overqualified for a job they have to offer you, that it's far below your level of expertise to satisfy you in the long-term.
Often in an interview, job seekers hear the comment, “Sorry, you seem overqualified for this position.” This is when an employer feels a candidate is so overqualified for a specific role they would not be satisfied for long-term and would most likely let the hiring manager down by leaving for something more senior when it arose. As a candidate, it can be very difficult to overcome this objection even if you express a genuine interest in the specific position for which they are interviewing.
In a recent example, a job seeker who had recently graduated with a Masters degree in Business Management, and who had been a project manager for a thriving printing firm, was turned down for a Division level Manager of printing operations position because he was overqualified for the job. The potential employer felt he wouldn't be happy in the job, that the candidate would want to advance too quickly into an executive level position. The candidate felt the employer's assumption was invalid, and feared that his preference to stay in operations was overlooked due to his MBA status, his excellent test scores in college, and on the career and personality assessment testing performed as a part of the interview process.
So what do you do if you are well trained, have good experience, an advanced education, are looking to re-enter the workforce, and you clearly state that you are willing to accept a lower level position because it interests you, and still you are told that you are too much for the job?
Here are a few things to consider:
1. Don't be too anxious to take jobs below your level
Remember, you can still assign yourself the tasks that interest you if you are operating at a higher level than you'd planned. By accepting a job too far below your training and education you may end up with a job that you can't move out of, or worse, no job at all. Most employers want to maximize their investment in their employees. Help them do that.
2. Invest some time in your interview preparation, to counteract any biased assumptions about your overqualification
Some employers feel that overqualified applicants are looking for an easy paycheck, so consequently may be burnt-out from their effort to obtain credentials and experience. Or maybe they are looking for fast advancement from a lower level position. That is not typically the case, so presenting your information and skills in a way that eliminates those reasons for seeking employment will move you towards being seriously considered for the job at hand.
Sometimes the interviewers can feel threatened by interviewing someone who is better trained than they are, or they feel that they may lose their own job to the stronger candidate. Obviously, that's not the intention, so utilize your communications skills to make your motivations for the job clear and understandable.
3. Make a list of the reasons you are seeking what may seem to be a lower level position
For instance, illustrate how your interests, skills and experience will serve both the employer and yourself in the position for which you are interviewing. Plus, offer examples of how your current or recent job didn't match those same circumstances, thus reinforcing in a logical manner how having you in place will benefit everyone concerned, verifying a win-win scenario.
Whatever you do, ask for the job, but don't seem desperate or needy, as if you must have this job at all costs. That could leave the interviewer with the idea that there is an unspoken problem, and he or she may immediately disqualify you. That's why it is important to organize your appeal in advance, so your skills and motivations make sense, and when you ask for the job, they clearly understand that it's good for you and for the hiring firm.
4. Take time to seek out positions for which you are a qualified match
Employers want good fits, just like you do. Many employers are slow to hire till they feel there is a good match, so try and eliminate the question of being overqualified.
5. Lastly, networking with industry professionals is key to hearing about and landing a new job
Ask friends and contacts for referrals to new people who can help you uncover unadvertised positions that match the type of work you seek. When an applicant has an “inside reference” that the employer can access, it often makes it easier for the employer to make a decision to hire someone who seems overqualified for a position.
In most cases, when an employer feels a candidate is overqualified for a particular job, there must be some effort by the applicant to logically explain why they are pursuing such a position, and why it is to the employers benefit, and the candidates benefit, to initiate the hire. If it doesn't make sense to the boss, it will likely not happen — but if it does make sense, and there is supporting data, you may overcome the stigma of being overqualified.