Told You're 'Over-Qualified'? 5 Words To Change The Employer's Mind

overqualified tipsIt's hard to believe you can be discriminated against for your experience, but it happens all the time. Here are two reasons why... Reason #1: Employers Don't Want Turnover

When you are over-qualified for a job, the first concern is that you'll be bored and leave for something better as soon as you can. In the HR world, turnover is a bad thing. It's estimated that it costs 130% of an employee's salary to replace them. So, each time someone leaves voluntarily, it costs the company money. Therefore, the goal is to hire someone who will stick around. The result is a focus on someone with just enough experience to get the job done.

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Reason #2: Employers Are Budget-Conscious

The more experience you have, the more expensive you are. Today, every company is looking to save a buck. Why overpay when you can get what you need for less? Now, perhaps you are willing to take a pay cut for the job, but the hiring manager realizes as soon as you can get a better paying job, you'll be out the door. That risks turnover. (See Reason #1 on why turnover is bad.)


SOLUTION: Shift the Mindset
The only way to fight back against experience discrimination is to hit the employer's concern head-on. When they say, "You're over-qualified."

You need to respond with these five words: "What concerns you about that?"

This will force them to share their reasons for not wanting to hire you. At which point, you can now address them. You'll need to be sincere and give them good, solid reasons why you won't ditch them for a better offer down-the-line. So, if you can't do that, I wouldn't suggest asking.

More: 7 Part-Time Jobs That Pay Up To $40 An Hour


TIP: Ask, Don't Tell
Notice the advice above has you asking what the concern is about your experience as opposed to suggesting you dive in and start telling them you won't leave them if something better comes along. That's because part of shifting the mindset successfully begins by having them articulate the concern. You need to let them state it so they know you heard them and then you earn the right to respond. If you don't, you'll come across as attacking their opinion without understanding where they are coming from. That will certainly guarantee you don't get the job.


Dealing with experience discrimination can feel frustrating, but if you follow the technique above, you'll at least have a shot and changing the hiring manger's mind. As a job seeker, you are a business-of-one who must sell your value to an employer. That means overcoming objections so you can get them to choose you. Use the advice above, and the next time you are told you are "over-qualified" you just might change the hiring manager's mind and get the job!


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Kevin McLogan

Overqualified is another way of saying "you are too old for the job, but we can't tell you that because you will sue us."

April 09 2013 at 2:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris R

I am a man in my 40's. In my experience, "you're overqualified" are words that come out of the mouth of a female Hiring Manager who is 15-20 years younger than I am. This is probably her first interviewing position (even if she has been there for a number of years). Today, for instance, I interviewed on-site of a LARGE business. Yesterday, I interviewed for a similar position on-site of the SAME LARGE business (they use multiple contracting companies here). Both interviews were with the On-Site Supervisor/Manager of their respective Team/Department. Yesterday's interview was with a man who was in his 50's, & he was genuinely impressed. B4 I made it back 2my car in the parking garage, my Recruiter was already calling me to tell me HOW WELL the Hiring Manager thought the interview went (I was 1 of the first candidates 2B interviewed & the interviews will continue through next week, but I left that interview feeling pretty confident).

Today, However, I interviewed with a young lady in her mid-20's, and the 1st words out of her mouth, as we sat down for the interview & she was getting my Resume out, were "I think you're overqualified". She already HAD my Resume B4 2Day & wanted 2 MEET WITH ME. So she had a change of heart when she saw my crows-feet & touch of gray hair. It was up 2 me 2 convince her that I was the RIGHT FIT for the job. That was all I could do, but I had better do that as Best I could. After getting her 2 relax & interview me, she then casually mentioned that I could post for another position within the first 30days after my start date. I explained that 30-days was hardly an adequate time period for anyone to make a measurable contribution in a position, & that I wouldn't be interested in looking for another position within the company until I had at least one-year of experience in my current position so my Manager could provide an accurate representation of my work when another Manager may call asking about me.

Bottom Line: What could have been a 5-10 minute interview, if I had not picked up on her age-discerning comment, turned into a full 55-minute interview. She asked if I had any questions and I asked a few questions, complete with follow-up questions and taking notes. Of course, I think that before I would be asked to join THAT team - I would have to pass a 2nd interview. But, regardless of the outcome of a 2nd interview w/that young lady's Boss, the interview was a good experience. It allowed me to demonstrate my ability to overcome what might have otherwise been an uncomfortable experience. I maintained my poise, my personableness, and professionalism. I was able to engage her in MY interview and she kept asking questions. The position I intrviewd for yestrday is a better fit for me, but I can/will work hard in either position IF given the Opportunity.
Signed: "Overqualified"

August 17 2012 at 9:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ed Scerbo

My experience, and I bet I'm not the only one, has been that employers avoid telling applicants anything at all about why they aren't interested which makes it impossible to guess and address. In one case after actually getting an interview which I thought went well, but was denied the job, I phoned to politely ask what the reason(s) were that I didn't "pass" the interview so that I could maybe use that information to successfully pass my next interview. They did get back to me and the answer I was given was that information was confidential. Given that I'm the party to which the requested information applied, that seemed like a disingenuous answer, but that's what you're going to get. I'm surprised, given that stance, that they even got back to me

July 18 2012 at 5:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Destiny Kitty

How about just leaving that master's degree off the resume? What is the harm in that?

June 29 2012 at 5:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark Williams

Generally, hiring managers and interviewers will not directly tell you that you are overqualified. However, the advice given here is valuable. The best way to get at the problem is for job seekers to ask, "do you have any concerns about my qualifications?" Then, no matter the response, you can tell the hiring entity how your experience will add value to the employer.

June 29 2012 at 11:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mark Williams's comment
Really Global

As per my posting earlier today, hiring managers, recruitment agencies and HR people DO tell people they are overqualified!

I have personal experience of this. Have a look at my post.

June 29 2012 at 4:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Really Global

To Cameron and BankerGolfer

You are both wrong! I have lost count of how many times I have been told that it was felt I was overqualified and that they were worried I would jump ship when something else came along!

I also know many people to whom this has been said and there are also flourishing discussions on LinkedIn on this very topic.

I have managed a couple of times to convince the person to think again and get through an interview or two. But at the end, they still felt I was overqualified, so that was that.

This has been my experience for both full-time and freelance roles. With the freelance role, you would think that being "over-qualified" would be good as you can jump straight in and add value from day one, but that's not the case there often either.

I think asking "what concerns you" is a good question - I have always tried to defend my application rather than address the concerns.

June 29 2012 at 8:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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"Overqualified" is a simple "blow-off" meant to ward off ill feelings and argument. But would you accept it if your partner said, "I'm leaving you because you're just too good for me."

June 26 2012 at 10:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim

"What does overqualified mean? That I'll do too good of a job?"

"Overqualified" is a simple "blow-off" meant to ward off ill feelings and argument. But would you accept it if your partner said, "I'm leaving you because you're just too good for me."

As the article said, "overqualified" means "risky". It could mean many things: You know more than I do. You are a threat to my job. You want too much money. I'd rather train someone less expensive than retrain a more experienced, more expensive worker. I already have three management-trainee deverlopmental candidates in the department, I just want someone happy to be the receptionist, The way you answered that question reminds me of the last three employees that bombed in that position, etc. And there's not much that a candidate can do to undo the interviewer's or decision-maker's life experience and their judgement on who they deem the best fit.

I've been a recruiter for more than 25 years. I've placed temporary laborers and recruited technical workers and administration. I've found that if the interview with a decision-maker lasts more than a couple minutes, you're probably qualified. So, who gets chosen from the three finalists? I have found, presuming that all three finalists are qualified enough to get hired, that the #1 factor is: Who Is The Easiest One To Hire? This, the candidate has some control with.

The one ultimately chosen has prepared. They have a resume without errors. THey have completely filled out the application (a resume is a personal marketing tool; an application is a legal document. Writing "see resume" is not acceptable on an application, unless the employer says it is). They've researched the company. They understand the job. They can picture themselves doing it. They can share anecdotes about what they've learned in past jobs and how they used it to benefit that employer, and how it relates to the job for which they are applying. They are willing to accept the job and start immediately (or within a couple weeks). They have a proven track record of performance, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, can provide the names and phone numbers of several supervisors and co-workers who are willing to attest to it (not just verify dates of employment).

The ones who complain about not getting hired are typically the ones who haven't done the above, and approach the interview process with a skeptical, "what's in it for me" attitude. Or haven't differentiated themselves from the other candidates (saying "I'm a people person" or "I'm a quick learner" are things that bore savvy interviewers).

June 25 2012 at 4:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BankerGolfer

Cameron is absolutely correct.

The author of this article has clearly never been a hiring manager. If she was, then she's lost in wishful thinking.

June 25 2012 at 3:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cameron

Sorry, but that's not worth writing. I've been on both sides of the hiring desk for a bit over 30 years. No one will say you're over qualified, they'll just go on to someone else and not tell you why.

June 25 2012 at 3:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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