Are you getting passed over for jobs and told it’s because you’re overqualified? Are you wondering if that’s "polite" wording for "too old"?
Or, are you one of the Baby Boomers looking to cut back and have a job with less stress and responsibility? Are you concerned because you’ve heard you won’t be considered because you are overqualified?
To a job seeker, the idea that you wouldn’t be chosen for a job because you have more education or experience than the job requires just doesn’t make sense. Why not hire the most experienced person?
But hiring managers or recruiters often look at candidates with more education and experience differently. When they see higher level qualifications than the job demands what they’re concerned about is:
Or, you may be correct in thinking "overqualified" is code for "’you are too old for the job." Fortunately, you can proactively address the major concerns employers may have about hiring older workers.
They wonder if:
If you’ve been reading this column, particularly the Beating Boomer Bias and Beating Boomer Stereotypes articles, you already know strategies to disarm these employer biases. You can find these articles in the directory to the right of this post in "More on Boomer Job Search."
Neutralize the Concerns
If you are, in reality, overqualified, here’s how to neutralize employer concerns:
Research the opening and company thoroughly, and then tailor your resume to the position. Elaborate on roles that are relevant to the job you are applying for, and deemphasize the rest. This is particularly important if the experience was linked to greater authority and responsibility than the position you are now applying for.
In your cover letter be sure to present the reasons why you are interested in a job that requires a lower level of education or experience than you possess.
If you don’t explain in the cover letter, the employer may make the assumption that you just didn’t read the job description carefully and don’t understand what they are looking for. You may not get the opportunity to interview.
Possible explanations to include in your cover letter -
In the interview take the initiative to expand on your reasons why you are interested in a job where you have more skills and experience than are required.
Don’t wait for the employer to raise the question. Even if they don’t say "you appear to be overqualified," they may be thinking it.
It is your job to reassure the hiring manager that you will not be bored, that you have the curiosity and drive to keep learning new skills, that you are comfortable being supervised by someone younger, and that you will not become dissatisfied with a lower salary.
Once you’ve allayed employers’ doubts, stress the advantages you bring. Will your experience allow you to "hit the ground running"? Do you have the good judgment and superior interpersonal skills of a seasoned professional? Have you amassed a rich network of connections in your field? Do your qualifications enable you to perform additional functions that someone without your background could not? Have you informally mentored younger workers? Tell the interviewer, and illustrate your answers with personal anecdotes.
Follow these steps and you may be pleasantly surprised by the positive reception you receive from employers.
Phyllis Mufson is a career / business consultant and a certified life coach with over 25 years of experience. She has helped hundreds of clients successfully navigate career transitions. You can learn more about Phyllis and her practice at PhyllisMufson and follow Phyllis on Twitter @PhyllisMufson.