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5 Ways To Fight The ‘Overqualified’ Label

December 3, 2018

Being turned down for a job because you’re ‘overqualified’ is extremely frustrating. What does it mean and how can you avoid the label?

Regardless of career or your position, when you find yourself in search of a new job, you know you’re going to face more than a few challenges. It’s not just about finding the right job for you, but knowing where to find the right opportunities and how to sell yourself as a candidate. Many boomer professionals have years of experience which can greatly help with their job search. But what happens when that experience becomes a road block? What happens when you are labeled ‘overqualified’?

It is a deeply frustrating obstacle to face. You are proud of the skills and experience you’ve acquired and the career you’ve built. You know you would be an immense value to countless organizations. And yet the very thing that should benefit you in the professional world is the thing that’s holding you back? It seeming doesn’t make any sense and yet it is a very real challenge for many older job seekers. However, this is not a label you have to live with. Learn how to combat being “overqualified” and overcome it in your path to your ideal job. 

Understand where they are coming from.

Refusing to hire someone because they seem ‘too qualified’ for the job seems ridiculous. It can be very easy to be dismissive and even angry at employers for having such opinions. But it’s important to understand where that though-process is coming from. They are not being vindictive or punishing you for your success. Usually, this concern relates to whether or not the employers think a professional will stay in the position they were hired for. See it from their perspective. If a candidate was a manager in a previous position, do you think they would be happy staying in a sales position or would they try to get back to a manager’s level. You may not agree with such an assessment but it’s important to understand it. Being sour at being labeled overqualified won’t help your position. More importantly, understanding why they have labeled you this way allows you to change their minds.

Make the case for yourself.

Whenever you’re applying for a job, you need to remember that you are far from the only candidate they’ll be considering. That’s why a targeted and clear resume is so important. Employers want to find someone whose resume best matches with the job responsibilities. Shape you resume to the job at hand. Don’t hide your experience or downplay your accomplishments, but let them see clearly that you can in fact get the job done. However, once you get to the interview stage, you have to go beyond the resume. This is where you sell yourself as the one and only choice for the job. Address those fears they might have about hiring someone so experienced. Show enthusiasm for the work and for joining the team. Talk about your plans for the job. You know that if you’re applying for a job then you can see yourself in that job. Help them to see you in the job as well.

Let your skills speak loudest.

Experience can make employers nervous. They see someone with 20+ years experience and they start to wonder how long they’ll stick around. Something every employer wants, however, is proven skills. You can be proud of your years of experience, but in the interview room, lean on your skills instead. Again, your resume is a key to getting you through the door. It should clearly show what you bring to the job. It’s hard for any employer to turn down someone who has proven their skills on the job. Someone who can hit the ground running in a new position can not be ignored. 

Demonstrate an ability to adapt.

One of the fears that comes with being overqualified is the assumption that you are stuck in your ways. It’s a criticism that has unfairly been attributed to mature professionals for quite sometime. Unfortunately, there are always going to be employers who will believe it. You need to change their minds through your own practices. Show them that you have no problem adapting to the changing business work and that you are far from stubborn in your work approach. Let them know you are a team player and able to collaborate. Show that you can accept feedback. Develop new skills, learn the latest software and be flexible with ideas. Your experience can be intimidating to some. Whether or not that is fair is beside the point. Demonstrate that you know what it means to be a professional. 

Be open to negotiate.

The financial aspect of the job search is always a bit tricky. Negotiating a salary can be a tightrope walk and it becomes even more tricky once the ‘overqualified’ label is thrown in the mix. Employers see years of experience and naturally assume they can’t afford it. Again, this is tricky but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are playing hardball with you. It’s entirely possible that your expected salary is beyond their means for the position at hand. It’s important to know your worth as a professional, but small sacrifices might be necessary.


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