There are valid reasons to dismiss job applicants with “you’re overqualified!” As often as not, it can be a thoughtless, dispiriting copout. Poor interviewers and weak managers use it most.

brainstormingIf a hiring manager is concerned that an otherwise solid contender may want too much salary, they should address that issue. If they fear a new hire will leave too soon, they need to talk it out. This rejection should only apply when totally true. It shouldn’t doom well-qualified applicants.

Résumés can present education and experiences that look intimidating. Reviewers may hide behind “overqualified” rather than meet the applicant. Effective managers say they want the best candidates, so they can both advance. Such leaders rise on the value adding proposition of candidates serving well as new hires and beyond.

Interviewees need an action plan to address an inaccurate rejection. The mindless “overqualified” position should trigger their artful recovery. Preparation is key!

Remember, chemistry and interviewing skills are still in play. Experience and talent count. Yet, threatened decision makers may end the interview by saying an applicant is “overqualified.” As long as you really want the position for at least several years and you are willing to work for the salary range in-play… you may snatch career victory from impending employment defeat.

If you hear, “Your background is great but you’re overqualified,” change focus; don’t disagree; turn “overqualified” into the employer’s advantage and advance your career. Gently adjust the impact. In your own words, or use these if you like, or paraphrase:

You are correct. I am well [change “over” to “well”] qualified for this position. That is exactly why I applied. I am ready to deliver quality output immediately. I trust, that in time, you will value my contributions and be pleased you hired me. That satisfaction will be a value to both of us. In a few years, we may be great partners, perhaps I will earn a promotion with a salary action or two.”   

If you need more traction, you can add:

In fact, I can see us working together quite effectively. I don’t expect more than a fair rate of pay – in line with peers and the existing compensation plan.  I am ready to apply my skills to add real value now – if you will hire me”

Then you can advance the process by seeking specific details:

“Let’s look ahead at the role for me. Please share what you see happening that will confirm your decision to hire me was correct? What would I be doing?”

Finally, “paint” verbal pictures of how your work will benefit the firm. Differentiate yourself from any others. Differentiate yourself with care; do not oversell yourself. Don’t intimidate the interviewer. Stress that you want a long-term opportunity showing your worth. Affirm you will let income take its course. Talk about being there for the company…yield the “win” to the firm!

Charlie Jannetti is a Senior Career Management Counselor for OI Global Partners in New Jersey, to contact Charlie via LinkedIn

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