Companies may think you are overqualfied

This is by far the trickiest concept for candidates. It’s hard for anyone to wrap your brain around – if qualified is “good”, overqualified must be great. Notsomuch.

First, what is “overqualified”?

Generally speaking, it means that the candidate has too many years of experience, and/or has advanced behind this position’s level.  Simply, the client wants someone more junior than you. It could be that they want someone more hands on, and it could be that there is a fair amount of menial or rote work involved.  Either way, they specifically do not want people who exceed the minimum requirements from a career level or career focus standpoint.

Why isn’t overqualified an attractive attribute?

In a tight market, with tons of resumes, employers must make quick assumptions based solely on resumes.  Several assumptions can be made about the overqualified candidate: (1) he or she is desperate; (2) he or she will not enjoy the role; (3) he or she will be too set in his/her ways to be a valuable contributor to our team; and/or (4) he or she will leave for a more appropriate position at the first available opportunity to do so.

Can these negative assumptions be overcome?

The short answer is, “not easily”.  It is, after all, still a fairly tight market. However, several factors – if true – can keep the overqualified candidate from having each door slammed in his face. First, the candidate should be able to demonstrate a compelling reason for the seemingly backwards career move. Hate management, because you miss hands on? Love engineering, and found that “paperwork and processes” weren’t for you? Was this your favorite job, and something you’re looking to get back to?

Second, the candidate should have a tellable career story with the ability to showcase how this move does not detract from the big picture plan.  “My ultimate goal is to get into wireless, and spending 3 to 5 years in this role will really help where I’d ultimately like to end up.”

Third, the pay must be appropriate.  Explain why this compensation works for you. Sell it!

Fourth, don’t be defensive.  If I had a dollar for every candidate who defensively raises his voice when we ask about whether the role would be a step backwards, I’d have a pot of dollars. It’s there. It’s blaring. Discuss it.

Lastly, really want the position.  If it is truly beneath you, it shows in your interview. It comes across and there is no way you’ll get hired. 

But, none of this matters if you can’t get in. Ultimately, the overqualified candidate is best advised to network or leverage experienced placement firms to help position herself. Her resume is likely to get skipped over on paper alone. Anyone know a good recruiter?