If you've been working for a while, chances are you've found yourself in an interview with someone who tells you you're "overqualified." Interviews are quite a nerve-wracking situation and at first it sounds like a compliment. But if you're like most people, you're left bewildered, wondering what interviewer meant. Today we're going to address this as a response to a question from one of our subscribers.
QUESTION FROM A SUBSCRIBER:
I've enjoyed your articles very much and have used some of information in my job search successfully. However, I have two pressing questions I want to ask. What is a job seeker to do when they are told repeatedly in interviews they are allegedly over-qualified? I have been on interviews for positions that are almost exactly like one I was laid-off from recently. However, interviewers flat out tell me that although I have impressive and desirable credentials, they feel I'm over-qualified. My second concern pertains to compensation. In rare events that I haven't been "over-qualified", I have managed to avoid discussing this taboo, yet all-important topic since this is what really drives companies to hire a particular candidate. In unfortunate event topic comes up before getting an offer, I have given a "range" as to what I'd expect based on area living standards, what such a position fetches for in industry as a whole, and obviously my credentials. I have tried various tactics from selling myself extremely short all way up to "no way in hell" for pay ranges, but regardless, I get form letter saying thanks for interviewing, but keep looking for a job. It's a catch-22 here it seems. On one hand I'm over-qualified, but when I'm not, I apparently ask for too much money even if I just state a reasonable range and justify my given range. Am I over-simplifying this or is there something else going on here that I'm unaware of? -J.H.
J.H., Thanks for your email and for compliments!
It sounds like when employers say you're overqualified, they're looking at your qualifications and realizing that they'd have to pay you a salary that's on high-end of salary range. And it sounds like you're expecting that high-end salary yourself.
I think in a good economy, employers can afford to hire "overqualified" individuals. Sometimes, if job market is tight - as it was a few years ago - employers might have no choice because less expensive and less qualified people are all working elsewhere.
I'm not sure what kind of work you do so it's difficult to get into particulars..
One option would be to go for a job with a lower salary. By now, you probably know types of companies and positions that are not willing to pay for your qualifications. You could go into interviews with these companies and explain before they even start asking you questions that you really want to work for their firm and you're willing to work for a salary on low end of range. By preemptively addressing salary question, you make it clear that you're not expecting a higher salary. This will make employer more comfortable with idea of offering you position and help alleviate their concerns that you would jump ship as soon as a sweeter offer comes along. Another approach to getting a job with a lower salary would be to remove some of qualifications from your resume. You don't want to lie on your resume, but you can legitimately omit certain facts. For example, if you graduated Phi Beta Kappa or Magna Cum Laude, you are not obligated to list that on your resume.
If you want to get a job with a higher salary, you might want to try working for a different type of company. There is often a difference in salary between jobs that are in company's "line of business" versus support/staff jobs. For example, an accountant working for a corporation to help maintain their books and records or do their taxes, would be working in a staff job that company would view as an expense or cost center. Companies work hard to minimize their costs (and therefore salaries) in cost center departments.