Overqualified for the Job and the Hiring Manager is Intimidated
Being overqualified for a job is a bad thing right? Well, sometimes but in the current job market, there are a lot of lower-level job vacancies that need to be filled.
At this stage of life, many of us want to take a step back. We do not want to work as hard as we have in the past. There are others that need to keep working and their past can be pretty intimidating. They have so much experience that they can do the hiring manager’s job and more. The hiring manager may be thinking that they will lose their job if they hire you.
This is a quandary that I am hearing more and more frequently.
I also dealt with this in my last corporate job where I was 15+ years older than the hiring manager and had a lot more experience in several arenas than he had.
I was interviewed about this topic back in 2020 by TheMuse.com in the post Older Job Seekers, Here’s How to Show Hiring Managers You Really Do Want That Junior-Level Role.
Let’s discuss how to handle this.
Identify the Elephant in the Room Right Away
You know you are overqualified for the job. If you walk into the interview and see that everyone you are speaking with is 20 years your junior you may be seen as intimidating.
I was recently speaking with a prospective Career Pivot Community member about this exact topic. He had worked in project management on some huge building projects for a major University. We are talking about projects that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. He had gone back to school in his early 60s to get a Master’s Degree in Real Estate development.
He interviewed with a major home builder for a project manager position. All three individuals he interviewed were much younger and with a lot less experience than he had.
He felt the interviews went … okay. On his way out that day, the recruiter pulled him aside and told him that they liked him but felt incredibly intimidated by him. This gentleman is not an intimidating guy from a personality perspective. Therefore, he presumed it was his experience that they found intimidating.
I told him he need to identify the elephant in the room immediately, he was very overqualified for the job. He needed to allay any of their fears that he would be after their job. What he needed to do is convince them that he want to help them grow in their careers.
Example of Being Overqualified for the Job
I had a major moment of clarity in 2002 when I had a near-fatal bicycle accident. In late 2003, I volunteered for a layoff from my employer, a tech startup that had been acquired. I then spent several years pursuing a high school math teaching certificate and teaching in an urban high school. That lasted a couple of years but I could not do that and stay healthy.
I spent a year developing a corporate development program for a major non-profit. Six months into that job, I realized I would never be successful and planned my departure at the one-year mark.
These were a couple of my career failures which I wrote about in the chapter Career Mistakes: Failure is a Great Option from my book Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for the 2nd Half of Life.
When I left the non-profit job I was immediately approached for 3 different opportunities in the high-tech field to do what I used to do. I was a technical trainer and curriculum developer for leading-edge technology products. This was something I left and never thought I would go back.
One of the positions was with a high-tech startup where 5-6 colleagues from my previous startup were working. I was overqualified for what they were looking for but I thought what the heck let’s talk.
The Interview Process
I first had a phone call with the recruiter. I told her my history and would only consider going back into high tech for the right position. From our discussion, it was very clear that I was overqualified for the job and I told her I was. The position paid half of what I used to make at my last high-tech job. I told her I would not accept such a salary but let’s keep talking.
Next, I was asked to come in and speak with the hiring manager. This was not an interview but a discussion about what they were doing. All of my colleagues told him that he needed to talk with me.
When I walked into the room and he was nearly 20 years his senior. I made it very clear that I had left high tech 4 years ago, and would only return for the right position. Jobs at his level were of no interest to me. I handed him a DVD with the curriculum that my team and I developed at my previous startup. I told him that was fun and wanted to do it again.
As far as the salary was offered, I explain he would not get anyone that could do what I had previously done. He was pretty clueless about how much effort it would take to accomplish what he wanted. He was way over his head in this area.
I identified the elephant in the room and made him at ease with me.
In a couple of weeks, I ran the gauntlet of interviews with management. The next week, I was asked to come in to speak to the CEO and was later hustled into the office head of HR. She then started to sell me on the job and the company. I eventually accepted the job where the salary was in between what they were initially offering and what I was making at my last high-tech job.
Being Overqualified for the Job is OK If They Understand Your “Why”
Notice I brought up the issue of being overqualified for the job in the initial discussion with the recruiter. I also, identified the elephant in the room right after I sat down with the hiring manager.
It is really key that you are upfront about your “why”. Why are you pursuing this job that you are overqualified for? They need to understand your “why” so that your experience does not intimidate the hiring manager and team.
What is your “why”?Marc Miller
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