Being overqualified is the perfect Catch-22. Think back. When you first began working, prospective employers told you: “no experience, no job.” Now, if an employer believes you have too much experience, the outcome is the same—no job.
Those alarming words, “you’re overqualified,” can pop up without warning to knock your job-seeking efforts off track. In a tight job marketplace, employers have the upper hand, so if you want that job, you’d better be prepared. Know the real issues lurking behind the label in order to counter it with style and grace. Understand that being called overqualified can be code for the following: You’re at the high end of the company’s pay scale; you’ll jump ship for a better offer; you’ll need more sick leave; you could be harder to terminate; you could become quickly bored with the position and you’re perceived as too old, which is discriminatory.
James Walsh, publisher/editorial director, Silver Lake Publishing, Silver Lake, CA. said, “It is true; you don’t want to hire me to answer the phones. I’ll want too much money.” A person who is qualified to be an executive employee may be too hard to manage in a non-executive position, Walsh added. He is the author of Mastering Diversity, Silver Lake Publishing, ($29.95). There are a number of ways to defeat the ‘overqualified’ label. During an interview, redirect conversation toward the excellent match between your background/experience and the new job needs. Offer to work on a freelance basis. Suggest working two days a week as a consultant.
“Position yourself as a real team player who is willing to bring top level expertise to the position offered,” said Joyce K. Reynolds, Business Coach, Ft. Lauderdale, FL. “Look for an opportunity to discuss becoming a mentor to others in the organization.” In some cases, the overqualified assessment may be a pretext for age discrimination, which has been illegal since the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 became the law.
“It is difficult and unwise to act on only a suspicion of discrimination,” said Reynolds. “Far better to maintain a focus on the benefits the applicant’s qualifications will provide to the company and workplace.” Walsh agreed and added, “If you confront the interviewer, while it may give a quick dose of righteousness, it probably will cost you the job.” With a little work and some smarts, you can make being overqualified a very attractive option for an employer.
And, here’s another tip, especially if you’re looking for work in a restaurant. Wrote an article about being overqualified for Restaurant Management Magazine.