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Nothing is more frustrating than applying for a job you want and being told you’re “overqualified.” Arrggh!!

You figure that, “Hey, if I’m willing to take this work—work that my skills and experience clearly show I am more than capable of doing—then employers should be thrilled to have me.”

Many employers are actually suspicious of applicants with too many qualifications. They fear you’re just slumming until something better comes along, or you’re going to want too much money, or you’re really after the boss’s position, or you’ll make other employees feel small, or you’ll resent being supervised by a younger or less-experienced manager, or, finally, that you are incompetent (because if you were any good, they reason, you’d be gunning for a better job). What’s even worse is that employers often won’t say the reason they’re not hiring you is because they think you’re overqualified. They just never call you back.

In other words, here’s what they are concerned about:

1.You’ll be bored in this position.
2.You won’t be satisfied with the salary they’re offering.
3.You’ll leave as soon as you get a better opportunity.

They’ll have to go through the time-consuming and expensive process of hiring and training someone all over again. This may or may not make you feel better about being “overqualified,” but you must admit those are legitimate concerns.

If you get the “overqualified” excuse once, you’ll be wary about getting it again. So if you apply for other jobs that may be at a lower level than warranted by your background, skills, education and experience, you may be tempted to “dumb down” your resume and omit things like college degrees. But lying about your background is not the way to go.

Here’s a better strategy: address it head-on.
Be the first one to raise the “overqualified” issue with a potential employer. If you bring it up yourself, you can discuss it openly and convince the interviewer that it won’t be a problem.

The key–as with every job interview issue–is to anticipate and prepare. Before you go to the interview, think about what you’ll say and how you will convince them that they should hire you, even if you are “overqualified.”

After explaining how you will be a great asset for their company, tell them why you are applying for a lower-level position. Say something like, “You can tell that I’ve worked at a higher level before, but this position is exactly what I’m looking for.” Then, depending on the job and your circumstances, explain why. For example:

“I’ve always wanted to work for your company (or in this industry), and I’m willing to take a lower-level position to get that opportunity.”
“It will allow me to use my skills and expand my experience in a new field.”
“I’m looking for something a little less stressful, with fewer responsibilities, so I can spend more time with my family.”
“This position provides the stability and long-term growth potential I’m looking for.”
“The salary is not my top priority. I’d have no problem with earning less than I’ve earned in the past.”

Other helpful tips:

Keep your ego in check. Particularly if your interviewer is younger than you, take care not to come off as a know-it-all. Show that you’re a team player and, without being overwhelming, how you’d be perfect for the job.

Prove loyalty. If you sense the employer suspects you’ll quit the minute you find something better, mention your longevity at previous jobs. Most employers believe that past performance is an indicator of future performance.

Offer to sign a contract. Some job coaches suggest saying, “Your company is exactly what I’m looking for. In fact, I want this job so much I will commit to staying a minimum of a year.” Alternatively, offer to work on a trial basis, no strings attached, for, say, a month. Your superior qualifications mean you’ll need little or no training, and you’ll be so wonderful the employer may not be able to let you go.

Be honest. If the reason you’re seeking a lower-level job is because you need to care for an aging parent or an ill child, then say so. However, don’t let the employer conclude you’ll be too distracted with home concerns to do a good job. Show enthusiasm (see below). Convince the employer this job is exactly what you’re looking for, not a “second choice” or a “stop gap.”

(Note: It’s possible to be too honest. Do not say, “I’m willing to take this job because I can’t find anything else.” Everything you say or do should be calibrated to make you look like a great hire that the employer just can’t afford to pass up.)

Be enthusiastic. A genuine eagerness about the job and a true desire to work for this particular company will incline hiring managers in your favor.

Let others speak for you. A third party’s endorsement is often more powerful than anything you can say. Make sure your references and your network are saying the right things in regard to your background.

Resources:

Bonnie Lowe, www.Best-Interview-Strategies.com

Karen Burns, http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2009/11/11/9-fixes-for-the-overqualified-job-seeker

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