What to Do If Employers Think You Are Overqualified

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Do you believe that employers may think you are overqualified? If this is the case, the following tips can help you tackle employers’ concerns and increase your chances during interviews:

First of all, think about why a hiring manager may be hesitant to hire you. When you know their fears, you can then try to address them. The hiring manager may be thinking something like this:

  • This candidate knows more than me! They may be difficult to manage and may not follow directives.
  • With so many years of experience and knowledge in their field, this candidate may have trouble working on a collaborative team and accepting input from others.
  • This candidate worked for one employer for many years. How will they adapt to a new environment?
  • Will this candidate be able to learn new and emerging technologies?
  • Will this candidate get bored and leave? I will then need to start the hiring process all over again!

Many of these perceptions may be unfounded; however, the challenge is to provide subtle, yet powerful, examples of how you are a collaborative, adaptable, and tech-savvy individual who learns quickly and is easy to manage.  In other words, you want to show you’re the best candidate for your target position.  Here are a few examples of how to address the related “fears” outlined above:

Potential Fear: Difficult to Manage
Example of how to address this fear:
“I have worked with several supervisors through the course of my career.  My supervisors were from different backgrounds and age groups, yet I always found ways to adapt my communication and work style to perform well and achieve departmental results.  If selected for this position, I look forward to learning from you and helping your department move forward.”

Potential Fear:  Trouble Collaborating with Others
Example of how to address this fear:
“I have experience working with diverse groups of individuals.  I like to give input and also listen to what others have to say.  I believe that better decisions can be made when everyone contributes to the discussion.  Let me share a time when I worked on a team to get the job done… [provide a short, specific example here].”

Potential Fear:  Adapting to New Environment
Example of how to address this fear:
“I have made several shifts in my career, and this has made me very adaptive.  I can function well in almost any environment.  Your organizations’ mission of [mention mission here] especially captured my interest.  I thrive in fast-paced, operational environments and understand the importance of being flexible and adaptive in today’s workplace.”

Potential Fear:  Learning New Technology
Example of how to address this fear:
“I enjoy learning new computer programs and technologies.  Recently, I took an online class to enhance my technology skills, and now I am taking an advanced Microsoft Word class.  Next, I plan to learn about webinar platforms.  I see your organization uses the webinar platform, GoToMeeting.”

Potential Fear:  Boredom on the Job
Example of how to address this fear:
“I seldom find tasks boring or repetitive because I always think of how the task relates to the bigger picture.  Let me share an example of how I performed a task that led to meeting a tight deadline and achieving departmental goals [share a short, specific example here].”

To sum up, follow these steps to show you are the most qualified person for the job (versus overqualified):

1) Identify possible fears of the hiring manager.

2) Practice providing examples that can help minimize those fears.  Remember to use your own language to sound natural and authentic in your responses.

3) Stay positive and energetic no matter what.

4) Give your best effort every time.

Article: How to Avoid Being Perceived as Overqualified for a Job: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/09/07/how-to-avoid-being-considered-overqualified-for-a-job/#1c7bb82c20ba

Article: Fighting the Overqualified Label: 10 Tactics for a Successful Job Search: https://www.livecareer.com/career/advice/jobs/fighting-overqualified-label

Article: How to Sell Yourself for a Job When You’re Overqualified: https://www.fastcompany.com/40548141/how-to-sell-yourself-for-a-job-when-youre-overqualified

Written by Associate Director of Career Services, Dina Bergren
Webinar setup photo Dina

This content has been adapted from a handout developed by Walden University Career Services, which is being used during Job Readiness Workshops at Project for Pride in Living (PPL).

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