OVERCOMING THE “YOU’RE OVERQUALIFIED”
It’s that same old line that experienced professionals hear repeatedly: “You’re overqualified for the position.” But what does that mean?
Well, more often than not, the simple translation is, “You cost too much money.” Hiring managers and business leaders assume that applicants with extensive experience, particularly in upper level positions expect higher salaries than those with less experience. Consequently, they often decide that there’s a better return on investment to hire a less experienced applicant and train him/her without having to put out quite so much money up front. Additionally, supervisors may fear that highly experienced employees will grow bored of their positions or leave the company once a better opportunity presents itself. Again, it is the less experienced hires that presumably promise greater longevity with the company.
Some experienced professionals may be attracted to a position based on qualities other than salary. For them, being overqualified may not affect their loyalty to the company or their commitment to the job, and they’re willing to take a reduction in pay if it means working in a position they truly enjoy.
And, in the current sagging economy, many displaced workers are willing to accept lower paying jobs in their field if only for the sake of being employed and earning a reduced paycheck.
That said, there are a few simple tactics these job seekers can use to conquer employers’ fears that their education will negatively impact their commitment or salary expectations in an entry-level position.
- Don’t lead with your degree on your resume. Higher education often results in desires for a higher salary, or so employers believe; additionally, if you’re not applying for a position directly related to your area of study, which, for many new graduates is not the case, an employer may not know how to translate your degree into something relevant. If you’re afraid your level of education may scare off potential employers, do the translating for them.
- In conjunction with the first tip, let your skills do the talking, not just your degree. Specify the ways in which your education has prepared you for a position by focusing on tangible skills that match the job’s requirements. This can serve two functions: quelling an employer’s fear that your degree over qualifies you; and/or breaking your degree down into something that an employer can immediately see is relevant.
- Be clear about why you want the job. Employers want to know that you’ll be committed to the position if it’s offered to you, so let them know why you’re interested. Make good use of your cover letter and interview to express your ability to succeed in the position while also expressing your desire to grow and move forward. In most interview settings, an employer will explicitly ask why you want the job or where you see yourself in five years, and no matter how you go about answer these questions, never give the impression that you expect to be bored or that the position is beneath you.Tailor your cover letter to the particular position, and focus only on what experience is relevant. If nothing else, this will help get you into the interview where you will have the opportunity to further explain your reasons for wanting the job despite your extensive experience.
- Focus more on your skills and abilities rather than previous job titles. Titles such as “supervisor” or “manager” may raise red flags among those in charge of hiring; so be sure to direct their attention to the skills you can offer over the titles you held.
- Demonstrate the loyalty you’ve displayed in the past, and express your interest and enthusiasm for this position. Both of these tactics are meant to ensure an interviewer that while you may be considered overqualified, you will be no less committed to this position because of it.
- Attitude is everything. Above all, make sure to sell yourself with a positive attitude and your ability to exhibit the traits an employer values the most: commitment, honesty, trustworthiness, adaptability, accountability and loyalty. Use specific examples to express to an employer how you’ve exhibited these qualities in the past.
Regarding salary, there are several courses you might want to take:
- Be upfront with the interviewer. Explain that your salary needs or expectations have changed since you left your previous position.
- Reveal the financial advantages of hiring you. Point out specific instances in which you were responsible for saving money, boosting productivity, or making financial gains for your previous employers.
Whatever you do, make it clear that you’re aware of their possible concerns and reassure them that salary should not deter them from hiring you. As a matter of fact, in today’s weak economy, some employers may take advantage of an influx of “overqualified” applicants who come in with top skills and experience but who are willing to work for less; thus, job seekers who may typically be considered “seasoned” can also take advantage.