A man and a woman sitting opposite each other at a table in a well-lit office conducting an interview.
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What to do if an interviewer says you’re overqualified

15 Apr 2019

Is it possibly that a lengthy CV can be to your detriment? If you are told you are overqualified, here’s what you can do.

Many see work experience as gold dust. Indeed, you might think that racking up qualifications and working in various companies will only serve to prove that you’re the ideal candidate for a job.

However, what do you do when a prospective employer tells you that you are in fact ‘overqualified’?

You may be initially baffled by the assertion but in the employer’s defence, there are a few reasons they may feel wary about taking on someone with experience that far outstrips the role.

For one, they may only have a certain budget for salary and so may fear they can’t actually match what you are worth. The employer may also worry that you’ll get bored of your role because it won’t engage your full potential. They could even suspect you only want the job as a temporary stopgap during your search for a role more befitting your skills.

It could be all of these reasons and none. Really, it’s difficult to say why recruiters make the decisions that they do. It doesn’t mean that you are entirely at their mercy, though. If you have been told you are overqualified, or are worried that the issue may arise, here is how you can improve the situation.

Address it early

It would be unwise to attempt to edit out previous experience or fabricate elements of your CV. The temptation is understandable, but starting your professional relationship on a note of deceit is a spell for disaster.

Instead, try and get ahead of it by addressing it head-on. You could nod to your experience in your cover letter and use that as an opportunity to explain why you are attracted to this particular role. You could also bring it up at interview, introducing it with open-ended questions. Ask your employer if they have any questions or concerns about your experience so that you can feel out their mindset.

Opening the conversation could allay your potential employer’s fears before they make any decisions. If the employer feels confident that you won’t find the role to be beneath you, your chances of getting hired will improve.

Be flexible on salary

If you’re going for a role that you could have gone for years ago, you may have to accept a pay cut. If you’re OK with this, flag it with the hiring manager. It will likely be one of their major reservations, so allaying their fears could be the solution.

Of course, it’s not ideal to accept less compensation, but there are plenty of reasons why a pay cut may be a wise move for your career. You could be attempting to successfully pivot to a different career, or you may be seeking better work-life balance. Either way, make it clear that you are both cognisant and accepting of the fact that you may need to take a lower salary than you had previously.

Consider that there may be another reason

You may need to accept that when a hiring manager says you are overqualified, it may be a euphemism for a less palatable reason.

That is not to say that you should feel like you have been discriminated against or worry that the hiring manager simply doesn’t like you. It could be that they sense you’re not really a culture fit for the organisation, or that you may not have the right personality to work harmoniously with the team.

That may be a bit of a blow, but it’s ultimately more beneficial to you that you end up in the right firm.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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