“You’re overqualified for this role, so we are going to pass.”
If you’ve received a version of this feedback, it’s hard to think of something more frustrating. You have all the skills and experience required for the role, expressed your strong interest, and are perfectly happy with the title and compensation. What’s going on here??
It’s common for employers to make some of the below assumptions:
- You won’t be happy earning less money
- You won’t be happy with a more junior title
- You won’t be happy with fewer direct reports, requiring you to be more hands-on and have less support
- You won’t assimilate into a more junior team
- You won’t be happy reporting to someone who may have less experience than you
As you can see, there is nothing sinister in these questions. They are just being projected onto you by a hiring manager that wouldn’t be happy with those points themselves.
So now that you know what they’re thinking, how can you overcome this?
First, don’t wait for the feedback to come. By the time they tell you you’re “overqualified,” the decision has often already been made and they will be reluctant to revisit. Address these potential assumptions head-on because if you exceed the qualifications on paper, 95% of the time these questions will arise for the employer (unless they themselves are also overqualified).
There are many reasons you could be interested in a role that some may consider junior to your experience. Perhaps quality of life is now more important than career advancement. Perhaps you are more focused on working for a quality company that can offer longevity, rather than receiving a higher compensation that may not last very long. Perhaps you were previously over-titled and think you would be more successful in a more manageable role. Perhaps you enjoy working with younger people and it’s not a threat to your ego to report to someone who still has some to learn.
Whatever your reasons are, the key is to effectively demonstrate your humility while explaining what your objectives are and making your case that none of these 5 points is a factor for you. This may not overcome every case, but it will give you a much better shot at a successful interview process.