When it comes to job searching, we often hear how difficult it can be for recent graduates, who are somehow expected to have years of experience straight out of school, to even be considered for an entry-level position. What happens when the situation is reversed, and your years of experience begin to work against you? How can job seekers set themselves up for success when recruiters keep telling them they are overqualified for positions they’re interested in?
Hiring managers might challenge you by saying you’ll be bored and leave for a better-suited position, or your compensation expectations won’t be met.
In these situations, your context will influence your course of action. Let’s examine what you can do when you’re considered to be overqualified.
Situation No. 1: You’ve Relocated Or Have Been Laid Off
How to respond: Highlight the win-win situation
Here, you must explain your motivation for applying to a position that you might seem “overqualified” for on paper. Highlight “how the organization can benefit from your experience, and how taking this position can advance your own skill set,” says Alan Zelnicker, executive recruiter. If the job scope is more narrow and the compensation is less than your old position, you must emphasize what you can contribute in terms of added value and what you can get from the role.
How to respond: Make an important mind shift
Going into any interview, you should always project confidence and take on the mind-set that recruiters are getting a great deal from you, rather than going in feeling like you’re overqualified for the job. You have to drive the power seat and never feel like you’re getting the short end of the stick. Instead, adopt the mind-set that any company would be lucky to have you! Without seeming arrogant, remind recruiters that the learning curve involved with your onboarding will be cut in half, leaving you more time to learn the organization, and giving you a competitive edge.
How to respond: Re-evaluate compensation
Managing expectations around compensation is a separate conversation. You need to be realistic and accept that sometimes you’ll need to take a step back. Whenever possible, make a direct touch point with the hiring manager over the phone to talk about compensation. This way, you can form a personal connection, and you can articulate all that you have to offer. As mentioned before, what is the win-win negotiation for you that makes taking a pay cut worthwhile?
Situation No. 2: You’re Switching Careers/Industries
How to respond: Highlight your new career path
It is not uncommon for people to switch industries or careers. In fact, millennials report switching jobs four times in their first 10 years out of school. When working with recruiters, highlight any new credentials you’ve earned to demonstrate your commitment toward this new path you’re taking. Emphasize your desire to learn and retrain to create a new path forward for yourself.
How to respond: emphasize the rudimentary
Though you may have 20 years of experience in one field, you must demonstrate to recruiters that you’re ready to check your ego at the door and learn about a whole new world. That being said, relevant and rudimentary skills can always be transferable and should be considered as your added value.
How to respond: know your worth
When discussing salary, make sure to mention that you’ve done your research, you’re aware of the industry standards, and are comfortable with what these types of roles typically offer.
“Fall seven times, stand up eight.”–Japanese proverb
What not to do: The worst thing you could do is tell a recruiter you’ll take anything just to get a job. Though this often may be the truth, people want to see that you possess the right enthusiasm and fit for the role. You must always sell your skills and highlight how you are the perfect candidate for the job.
Your resume: If you’re having trouble getting through the door and you think your resume might be the culprit, there are some workarounds to try:
- If your resume demonstrates work dating back more than 10 years, consider consolidating your experience and only keeping what is still relevant today
- If you have multiple designations and education, consider only keeping what is relevant to the job you’re applying for and removing anything that is redundant
- Consider reformatting your resume in a way that tells a new story
If you can demonstrate how a role will help you develop, and show how you can be an asset, then don’t let a recruiter persuade you that you’re overqualified! Remember, you need to maintain your confidence throughout the process and let your resiliency guide you as you continue your search.