When They Say You are “Overqualified”…

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What do you do if a hiring manager says you are “overqualified” for a position? First, you need to know that what they really mean is a) you’re going to want too much money, b) you’re going to be bored and will leave in six months, or c) you won’t fit into the culture. All three of these underlying issues can be addressed with these two approaches:

  1. Show enthusiasm! Change the subject to how much you want to work there, that you admire the organization, their culture, have enjoyed talking with everyone you’ve met, and so on. Showing sincere enthusiasm will go a long way towards dispelling their qualms about the salary you’ll want, your interest in the position, and cultural fit.
  2. Ensure that you are tailoring your pitch effectively across all of your communications (resumes, emails, what you say in interviews). If you held senior-level responsibilities in your prior job, and are now interested in dialing it back a bit in your next role, don’t emphasize the $10 million budgets, staff of 100 that you managed, and global strategy that you developed. Instead, emphasize the things that are appropriate for the more junior role. Often these are the more tactical, executional aspects of your prior positions.

Forbes quoted me extensively on how to handle the “overqualified” issue, in case you are interested in reading more. Also remember, if you’re not initially viewed as a “perfect fit” based on your experience (e.g. you are seen as overqualified), then relying on ads and headhunters to get interviews won’t work. Instead, it’s even more important to use cold-calling/cold-emailing (i.e. “Direct Contact” as we say at the Five O’Clock Club) and networking to land meetings and interviews.

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