Many people have been told they are ‘overqualified’ for a position during the job interview process.
This term - ‘overqualified - throws up a couple of ideas immediately. Perhaps it is that they are going for jobs that they are genuinely overqualified for - seems pretty obvious.
It may indeed be that there just aren’t enough data points to say that there is a pattern to be concerned about. If they’ve only been told a couple of times, on one or two specific occasions, then it may be just that.
If however there is a pattern, then it needs to be addressed.
What being ‘overqualified’ can really mean
Often, interviewers will use the term ‘overqualified’ as code for something else.
They may be thinking that you are too old for the organisation - too old, which means that you lack a cultural fit with a young team.
It may be that you are too old, meaning that you are tired, burnt-out and lacking in enthusiasm.
There are other things that ‘overqualified’ can mean: the interviewer might have worries and concerns.
For one, they may be concerned that you are just going to be too expensive for this particular position. They may also be worried that whilst you are interviewing for a position at this level, you in fact want the manager’s - or indeed, their - job.
The interviewer might also be concerned that they are just being used a safe port in the storm and that you are only going to move on when market conditions improve.
It’s also possible that there are a couple of errors in your job search strategy. These errors might be that you aren’t effectively communicating what value you can add to a business in a clear and compelling manner.
It might also be that you are just targeting the wrong jobs.
What to do if you’re told you’re overqualified
Conduct a skills and attributes audit
Be brutally honest with yourself and get input from others where possible. You’ll probably find that there’s a great deal more than you initially thought. Then take these ideas and concepts and hone them into clear messages that you can communicate both at interview and in your CV / cover letter.
Once you’ve done that, review your personal values in the context of your job, career and mission. Bear in mind that your values may shift depending on the stage of life that you’re at; for example, the values that you had in your 20s are probably different to the ones you have in your 50s.
Find companies which have values aligned to yours
Find companies that have aspirational values which are aligned with yours; find companies with a mission that you believe in and can wholeheartedly sign up to. If you do this, then you’ll barely be able to disguise your enthusiasm and passion for working for such an organisation. This enthusiasm will be very attractive to any potential future employer. Indeed, this will also counter any concerns that you are “tired, burnt-out and lacking in enthusiasm”.
Look for jobs that fit with what it is you have to offer - pretty basic and straightforward.
Keep your message tight and relevant
For example, if you are communicating in a CV or at interview that you are a business analyst / program writer / project manager, then you’re diluting the impact of your message. Keep it tight and relevant to the job you are applying for.
Both with yourself and those you are interviewing with. Going into any position with the intention of moving on as soon as something better comes along is probably dishonest, might well be picked up during the interview process and won’t serve your reputation in the long-term.