The overqualified job candidate

Among the employment issues receiving increasing attention is the plight of the “overqualified” job candidate. Seemingly competent talent is frequently being told that open job positions will not be filled by them, because they know and have experienced too much. Seems crazy, but this is going on. What is an unemployed professional to do when you are still facing productive working years and you’re getting the strong message that your peak earnings and formally high levels of responsibility may have already passed you by? Fortunately, a pattern of job seeker concerns can be identified and considered leading to the emergence of possible coping techniques.Despite the obvious psychological challenge presented by being too qualified to be hired is the practical necessity of having to make do with less earning power and the likely disappointment of less status, stimulation and stamina. Typical complaints I’m hearing from the overqualified job candidate include the following prejudices:• Being judged a flight risk. As soon as a better position comes along you’re going to be gone.• Rich talent pool. There are so many qualified people looking for work right now that overqualified looks potentially problematic. Hiring managers can afford to be very selective.• Too expensive. Why bring someone on board who is used to much more money and benefits than we can provide.• Not a team player. Why risk hiring a know-it-all who isn’t going to get along with lower-level staff they aren’t used to.• Networking is hard. So many currently employed professionals are getting bombarded by networking requests that many job seekers are feeling disconnected, if not shunned, making getting the interviews more difficult. How to cope with this less-than-pretty picture? There are no easy answers and the solutions are largely going to be specific to your situation. But some tactics should be considered to increase your chances of being hired and to reduce the chances of getting rejected due to being overqualified. • You’ve got talent. It should be the strongest weapon in your arsenal. Making a firm connection between your value and their needs is job #1.• Address the long-term viability issue head on. Show that you’re back in the game and willing and eager to perform at your best. You are there to get the best job possible done as long as it takes. Let them know this sincerely and passionately.• Eat the pay cut. Don’t compare today’s salaries to what you were making in ‘07. Those days are gone. You don’t have to like the new normal, but it helps to not spend a lot of time worrying about it.• Don’t get paranoid. Maybe the reason you didn’t get hired had nothing to do with being overqualified. Perhaps there was an insider who was being strongly considered from the start or they had needs for which your value proposition wasn’t a match.• Show that you are a team player. Going into an interview with an arrogant demeanor or trying to show up that interviewer who is 15 years younger than you will not help your cause. • Demonstrate your flexibility. By branding yourself as adaptable, innovative and open to new ideas you may be able to soften an impression that your vast experience leaves your thinking too old fashioned or fixed.• Determine if you’re interviewing as well as you should. You may need instruction or practice to make sure your interview performance is as sharp as can be with the issues of overqualification in mind.Professional qualifications are hard earned and it’s a shame to minimize them. The trick is in finding a way to leverage your qualifications while mitigating the hiring risks associated with a comprehensive work history. This may require a degree of reinvention that leaves you still proud of your past, but humble and positive about the future.
Bill Ryan, founder of Ryan Career Services LLC, Concord, also is a regular blogger on NHBR Network. He can be reached at 603-724-2289 or