Maybe you've been laid off from a high-paying job and prospects for similar positions are scarce. Perhaps you're looking for a greater work-life balance that only a step down the corporate ladder can provide. Or maybe you are considering trading your big-fish-in-a-small-pond experience to work for a large company.
Whatever the case, you may hear those dreaded words: “You're overqualified.” And you need to know how to reply.
What Does 'Overqualified' Mean?
They say “overqualified.” You say “experienced.”
Why wouldn't a company want to hire someone with more-than-ample experience and skills?
A potential employer may be nervous that someone with a lengthy resume and extensive credentials will grow restless in a position that isn't challenging. Or they may be concerned that you're just looking for something to pass the time until a better job comes along.
If an employer expresses fear that you will leave once you find a “better” job, point to your past employment record （if appropriate）。 You can also offer to sign an employment contract.
An employer may also be worried that they can't pay your desired salary. If so, consider lowering your salary requirement. You can also point out, if it's true, how you may have cut costs at previous jobs.
Take It Down a Notch
Avoid setting off the “overqualified” alarm bells with your resume and cover letter.
Tailor your resume to the job description. Don't send a $100,000 resume for a $70,000 job. You can also omit part of an extensive job history if it isn't related to the job you're seeking. But do so carefully, making sure you don't leave any gaps on your resume.
Also remove what could be considered intimidating facts and details. If you're trying to get a job as an account executive at a small company, you may not want to include that you were, say, a Rhodes scholar. If you have an advanced degree that isn't relevant to the job, you may want to omit it too.
In your cover letter, explain your circumstances and put a positive spin on your experience. Express your enthusiasm for the position and be realistic about salary requirements.
Direct and to the Point
Be prepared to address the issue of being overqualified during an interview.
Often, people throw the term “overqualified” around vaguely. An interviewer may be saying that you're too skilled to be a strong candidate - or she may be complimenting your extensive experience.
As soon as she mentions the word “overqualified,” politely ask for more details. Once you understand the meaning behind it, you can properly address her concern.
Explain why you want the job and feel it's a good fit for you. Stress that you are comfortable accepting a position at this particular level.
You may also want to emphasize good relationships with former managers and coworkers in the interviewer. This can help allay fears that you might upset the balance of the team or have trouble taking direction.
Old Enough to Know Better
Unfortunately, some employers use the term “overqualified” to mean “too old.”
Age discrimination is illegal, but unfortunately it still occurs. There were 19,124 charges of age discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission （EEOC） in 2003.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act （ADEA） protects people age 40 and over from employment discrimination based on age. It also says that an employer may not refuse to hire those workers because of their age.