“You’re overqualified” is probably the most dreaded compliment in the history of hiring. This assertion is usually accompanied with remarks such as: “What sort of position do you really want?” or “Don’t you think this position would be a step down?” According to a Career Transitions post in Psychology Today by Katharine Brooks, Ed.D, accomplished female professionals have been turned away from lucrative opportunities because of being perceived as a hiring risk. From an employer’s perspective “overqualified” professionals are those who ‘won’t fit in, will cost too much, or won’t keep up with trends.’ Brooks explains that interviewers use this unappealing commendation to mask their apprehension and avoid hiring an employee who they feel may will “get bored and leave the job as soon as something better comes along.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the projected percent change in employment from 2012 to 2022 amongst top executives is 11%.* With this in mind, you will not be the only professional considered overqualified for a position. However, this dubious distinction does not have to be a deal breaker. Armed with the right knowledge, tactics, and attitude, your potentially intimidating repertoire of expertise can charm rather than alarm your interviewer.
When Changing Careers
It is not uncommon for highly motivated professionals to hear the word “overqualified” when transitioning into a different department or industry. One of the best ways to deal with this gilded sentiment is to anticipate and diffuse it before it is bestowed upon you.
If you’re heading into a new field, then emphasize your long-term focus from the beginning. It would also help to concentrate on the last 10 years of your career and make your resume as succinct as possible. If you foresee being labeled overqualified because you’re near the top of the pay scale for the position, express your willingness to be flexible when it comes to earnings, and accentuate the benefits of the expertise you bring to the position. Highlight your long-term goals with the company before any suspicion that you’re seeking interim employment arises. Make it abundantly clear that your intention is to become a valuable part of the organization, not to hop from job to job.
With a little forethought and careful semantics, you can transform a beleaguering label into a solid business employment opportunity with room to grow. Remember to highlight your experience and proficiency with specifics.
How to Succeed in an Interview in a New Field
If you are involved in an interview, and your advanced qualifications or experience in another area surface, there are some strategies to keep in mind such as letting your potential employer know that although your skills exceed the requirements, your qualifications will simply help you to excel on the job and boost productivity. Being considered overqualified is actually a sly form of discrimination. However, it’s far more effective to recognize and discuss the issue in a logical manner instead of being defensive and reacting with emotional disdain. Also, take the initiative to approach the topic from a positive point of view. Pay attention to context clues to determine what the hiring manager sees as concerns, and focus on dispelling that assumption.
According to a Business post in the Atlanta Journal Constitution regarding the benefits of networking, “Managers prefer to hire a candidate they know — and statistics suggest they do this as much as 75 percent of the time.” So don’t forget to network. Do your research and connect with professionals that can back up your credentials.
Turn the Tables
It is vital to understand the interviewing process from the point of view of hiring authorities. It is up to you to present yourself as a dedicated professional with expertise who will increase productivity. When your qualifications are reviewed during the interview, an advanced knowledge of and preparation for the inevitable twists, turns, and potential roadblocks will enable you to spin the odds to your favor.
Good communication skills matter in interviews so do highlight, from recent employment, examples of your ability to work autonomously and as a team player. If you keep the tone of the interview cordial while displaying your expertise, then you can turn a potentially deal breaking label into a badge of honor that will enable you to build rapport with hiring authorities and secure a position.
By Kathleen Delaney