Feeling That You’re Overqualified?

By Joe Stein

With the economy in the current state that is in, more and more job seekers are finding themselves pursuing positions that are below the level that they previously worked in. Creating an even greater potential challenge is the number of unemployed who are over 40 years of age.
 
All is not lost, however, as there are numerous things that you can do as a candidate to help overcome any perceptions that the Recruiter or Hiring Manager may possess. You will most likely not hear the statement “you are overqualified” (Recruiters tend to fear the term because it sparks people to think about age discrimination), so a key will be to do what is needed proactively. If you were to hear that you are “overqualified”, it is probably too late to change any minds.
 
Consider the following tips to overcome the negative image of being “overqualified”: 

·         Refocus Your Resume – Consider moving away from your title and chronological dates, and towards whatever skills you have that match the position. This may mean a move towards a Functional Resume, or simply tweaking your current resume by not going back any more than 15-years. You may also just list your Department or Function rather than your specific title, if that position will be too “hefty”.   Whatever you decide, however, do not lie on your resume. You will eventually get caught and face not only embarrassment, but probable separation of employment.

·         Drop Any Negative Attitude – If you truly desire the position being sought, then do not project that this position is beneath you. You may already have some hurdles to leap over to convince the Hiring Manager, so don’t make your attitude another one. Don’t project that you are only considering this job because you are desperate. 

·         Don’t Let Rejection Get You Down – It is tempting to get down on yourself if you do not obtain a position at a lower level. Don’t have the false belief that these positions should be easy to get hired into.  In today’s economy, there is no such thing as a “gimme”. Stay upbeat and positive. 
 
·         Focus on What You Can Control – You have limited energy and time during your job search. By focusing on something that you can’t control (such as your age), you provide an unnecessary distraction in your search. It is tempting to blame everything on your age, but doing so may cause you to potentially ignore any other reason that prevented you from obtaining the job. 
 
·         Take Money Off The Table – Sometimes the unspoken conclusion by a Recruiter is that you will be “too expensive”. If that is not correct and you have properly slotted your salary requirements to the level of the position, then make sure this comes out during your discussions.
 
·         Sell Why You’re Interested – The reasons should not be that you are desperate to get back to work (regardless of how true that might be). Communicate how much the company, the challenge, and the industry means to you. This is where you will need to overcome the perception that you will be “bored” at the lower-level position. Limit your questions regarding future promotions and different opportunities, as this will reinforce any perceptions that you will not be challenged. Furthermore, try not to stress (too strongly) how you are seeking a greater work-life balance. You may give the impression  that you are seeking to coast towards retirement.
 
·         Promote Your Skills and Knowledge - Push what you know and how capable you are. Instead of being “overqualified” for the position, instead take the approach that you are “fully qualified” for the job. Avoid, however, projecting an air of arrogance with a complete “done that before” attitude.
 
·         Stress Your Loyalty – This is where you will need to overcome the perception that you will leave at the first scent of a better job. Emphasize how loyal you are to an organization throughout your work history (if this is true), and tie this to all the reasons why you are interested in the position.
 
·         Secure An Advocate – Try to network with someone already within the organization. This person can help you in the selling process and also with overcoming any obstacles you may have with the Hiring Manager. Try to align your strategy towards the position with your network, so that everyone is speaking consistently.
 
·         Consider a Smaller Company – A smaller company may appreciate the ability to obtain a “bargain” more than a larger organization. A small company may also better utilize your experience and skills, regardless of your job title.
 
While there are occasions when Recruiters and Hiring Managers dismiss candidates over being “overqualified”, typically there is something that led them to that conclusion. Maybe something was not communicated by the candidate, which would have caused the Recruiter to change their mind. Review the tips listed above and focus on what you can control and don’t forget to stay positive. 
 

As always, the best of luck in your job search.

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