“Why wouldn’t an employer WANT a candidate who is overqualified?”, a Jobfully reader asks. “Wouldn’t they be happy to have someone who was completely competent from day one and readily able to take on more responsibility as needed? Why is being overqualified a bad thing? If I’m willing to work at that level, why does it bother the employer?”
To get the answers from hiring managers’ perspective, we interviewed Kristen Fife, senior recruiter at RealNetworks and Staffing Consultant of the recruiting firm Conquent . With decades of experience in placing candidates, Kristen gave two top reasons why hiring managers may reject someone who is “overqualified”.
First, they worry the candidate will not stick with the company and position. “Usually when someone is overqualified, the biggest concern from a hiring manager’s standpoint is whether they are going to stick around until the market upturn and then leave in search of greener pastures.” Kristen says that trying to convince a potential employer that you will stick around long term is usually ineffective. She says they are also worried about whether they will be able to keep an overqualified worker challenged, create a career path for them and give them the opportunity to grow.
The second reason, according to Kristen, is that a hiring manager with significantly less experience is likely to feel uncomfortable managing someone who has so much more experience. She recommends this for highly experienced workers to help the hiring manager feel more comfortable: “Be very tacit. Don’t offer a ton of advice. Let them learn, but don’t offer unwanted advice or anecdotes. They may ask for suggestions and it’s perfectly OK, when asked, to give suggestions that are not over the top. Say ‘What if we’ as opposed to ‘When I did this’. Put it more as a suggestion than ‘this is how we did it and these are our results’. Let the (less experienced) person understand you want to help and have ideas. But don’t establish yourself as an expert on something that will threaten them.”
Kristen has three suggestions for getting in the door for an interview when you are overqualified:
- Customize your resume to the least common denominator of the job description. Highlight relevant experience. Talk about yourself at the level to which you are applying.
- Do not date yourself. List only the last 7-10 years of work experience, and only relevant experience.
- Stick to a position that is as close as possible to what you’re doing now. It’s difficult to get a position you haven’t had for the last 5-10 years, even if it’s at a much lower level.
If you are often told you are overqualified, Kristen suggests a different direction:
- Try a new career. Take a sideways step into something different, yet related, to what you were doing.
- Become a consultant. Teach classes. Have other people pay you for your expertise.
So what is a highly qualified applicant to do? There ways to overcome these objections. Next week, we’ll talk about action plans to overcome “being overqualified.”
More on overcoming the label of overqualified from Jobfully:
Tell us what you think: Is an overqualified worker a good deal for an employer or too big a risk? Have you ever taken a job you’re overqualified for, or worked with someone who was overqualified? How did it work out?