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Overcoming the Overqualified Label in a Job Interview

When an interviewer says you're overqualified for a position during a job interview, you may attribute it to age bias. The stigma of being overqualified is surmountable, however, regardless of the reason for this label. Counter that label with a strong response.

Overqualified may be code for one of five perceptions. Interviewers may use it to indicate that you:

  • Have too many years’ experience

  • Have too much education

  • Will want to be too highly paid

  • Are too rigid with demands

  • Are too rusted with obsolete skills

To combat concerns of overqualification, use the following tactics:

  • Clarify the interviewer’s concerns. Find out whether the interviewer really thinks you’re overqualified — or just overaged — and whether you’ll want to earn too much money or be bored by the position.

  • Enthusiastically address the interviewer’s concerns, emphasizing the positive. Explain how you can grow in this position.

  • Show how you can use your experience to benefit the company in solving long-term problems, building profit, or assisting in other departments.

  • Make sure that the interviewer understands your qualifications.

  • If you’ll be working in an office full of younger people, explain how you’re an anchor. You’re experienced, calm, stable, reliable, and you can provide day-to-day continuity.

Here are some model responses to the overqualified put-off:

  • Overqualified? Some would say that I'm not overqualified but fully qualified. With due respect, could you explain the problem with someone doing the job better than expected?

  • Fortunately, I've lived enough years to have developed the judgment that allows me to focus on the future. Before we speak of past years, past titles, and past salaries, can we look at my strengths and abilities and how I've stayed on the cutting edge of my career field, including its technology?

  • I hope you're not concerned that hiring someone with my solid experience and competencies would look like age bias if once on the job you decided you'd made a mistake and I had to go. Can I present a creative idea? Why don't I work on a trial basis for a month — no strings — to give you a chance to view me up close? This immediately solves your staffing problem at no risk to you. I can hit the floor running and require less supervision than a less experienced worker. When can I start?

  • This job is so attractive to me that I'm willing to sign a contract committing to stay for a minimum of 12 months. There's no obligation on your part. How else can I convince you that I'm the best person for this position?

  • My family's grown. And I’m no longer concerned with title and salary — I like to keep busy. A reference check will show I do my work on time and do it well as a team member. I'm sure we can agree on a salary that fits your budget. When can we make my time your time?

  • Salary is not my top priority. I will work for less money, will take direction from managers of any age, will continue to stay current on technology and will not leave you in the lurch if Hollywood calls to make me a star. And I don't insist that it's my way or the highway.

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