Yesterday evening was the first session of my “Supercharge Your Career” program at the Zicklin School of Business. And, as always during introductions, a couple of participants mentioned that they have been told they don’t fit a job because they are overqualified.
I asked one person, “Do you think it is because you are older?” Her “Yes,” didn’t surprise me. All too often, employers are looking for employees who are under 40 and will dismiss the expertise and experiences of those older who have gained a vast resource of knowledge while working to be a leader.
Not every job candidate who is told that they are overqualified is overage. An alumnus of my ‘Supercharge’ program recently was hired by a colleague of mine. My colleague acknowledged that his new employee was overqualified. But he also knew that the person, an immigrant who had worked very hard to earn an M.B.A. while taking on campus leadership positions and working full-time, could contribute a big picture view of the economy.
Another alumnus of ‘Supercharge’ is not as fortunate. Downsized two years ago, he has still not been able to find a job because he is repeatedly told that he is overqualified for a position. This person is prepared for each interview with a well-developed resume, effective career story, and a very positive attitude. He knows that he can contribute to an organization since he has earned outstanding recommendations from his former employers.
There may be legitimate reasons for not hiring this man: there is a ‘better-fit’ candidate, there is a perceived gap in his skills, etc.
Yet, being told that you are overqualified negates the value of talent that is being judged and not understood.
The key to eliminate being ‘overqualified’ is to reply to the interviewer in a positive and at times humorous approach. In other words, a candidate needs to develop a script of retorts to educate the employer on the knowledge, expertise, and experiences being offered.
A script is made up of the lines that will be recited during a particular scene. The actor, er, job candidate, needs to be able to retrieve the appropriate lines to deter the employer from staying focused on the word ‘overqualified.’ Last evening, I suggested to the program participants that they take an acting class. An improvisation class would be ideal for someone who wants to be ready with a response that will break down the barrier to being overqualified.
To research what should be in your scripts, find articles on websites that address the overqualified and overage issue. For instance, “Good Morning America” posted an article on July 13, 2009 by Tory Johnson, Workplace Contributor on “Overage and Overqualified? Get Job Searching Tips.” The writer is fair and balanced in stating the case for not hiring an overqualified person. There is also very useful wording that you can incorporate into your script. For instance, Johnson writes, “One of my favorite comebacks to this issue came from a 40-plus man in Ohio who would gladly take a lesser paying position because he wants to get back to work, and asks, ‘If you were buying a Chevy, but you were offered a Cadillac for the same price, wouldn’t you take it?’”
“Job Interview Answer: Are You Overqualified for This Job?” by Alison Doyle, About.com Guide, is a very good resource. Joyce Lain Kennedy, career expert and author, shares her best job interview answers to the question “Are you overqualified for this job?”
In my opinion, you can never be overqualified. There is always something to learn or to learn how to do something better while working to be a leader. Good luck!