Action Plan for Overcoming “Overqualified”

Action Plan for Overcoming “Overqualified”

Recruiting and hiring managers are sometimes hesitant to hire people they consider overqualified. Yesterday we got a recruiter’s perspective on why they might not want to hire someone who is overqualified.  Today, an action plan for overcoming the label of “overqualified”.

Recruiter Kristen Fife said that one reason hiring managers hesitate is that they fear the overqualified worker will soon leave.  Related to that is concern the worker will be bored, won’t have a career path, or won’t be happy with the position. Here are ways to eliminate these concerns:

  • Highlight longevity in previous jobs
  • Show what aspects of this job would be challenging and interesting to you
  • Give examples from past jobs of how you have kept yourself challenged and created value at various levels
  • Express passion for the job, company, or domain.  For example, if the job is a level below where you were in the past but in a field for which you have a passion, bring that out as a demonstration of why you are likely to stay with this company.
  • Bring out your ability and willingness to do every aspect of the job including tasks that might appear menial or beneath you
  • Focus on the value you can bring to this company, in this position

A second reason hiring managers are concerned about overqualified applicants, according to Kristen, is that they feel intimidated by working with someone with deep qualifications, and perhaps even more experience than they have.

  • Strive to come across as competent but not a “know it all”
  • Avoid stories of how things used to be done, or achievements from long ago
  • Offer solutions to the company’s problems in a collegial manner. Not so much “I would come in and fix this” as “One technique we could try is . . .”
  • Keep your communication style contemporary and  warm, avoiding any hint of condescension
  • Put the manager at ease about competitive concerns by appearing eager to learn and grow but not ambitious about climbing the corporate ladder
  • Make clear you are comfortable with where you are in your career

Here are action items for the next time you apply for a position for which you might be considered overqualified:

  • Customize your resume and all other materials to match the job precisely
  • Include only experience and achievements that relate to the job and bring out a promise of future value
  • Prepare stories to share in interviews that demonstrate how you’ve challenged yourself in the past, your willingness to stay with a job long term, and your ability to work with a wide variety of people
  • Practice your communication style with a friend, perhaps someone young, with a focus on how you are coming across
  • Be clear in your own mind about why you want this position including your career path and future plans, and prepare how you will respond when asked

The concerns of hiring managers are understandable. With preparation, job seekers can effectively bring out their match to the job and show how they are perfectly qualified.

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Watch Jobfully videos about the issue of being overqualified:


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