There are a lot of blogs espousing tips to get the candidate without experience hired, but we rarely see advice or support for the candidate with “too much” experience.
You’re an applicant with a proven track record, you’re available and willing, you come with valuable golden nuggets of industry information, and yet you’re still turned down. Maybe, just maybe, it has more to do with the hiring manager or company than it does with you.
Rejection is part of the job hunting game, and it’s no fun no matter what the reason—even if you’re lucky enough to get some feedback. But when rejection comes because you’re “overqualified,” it’s a special kind of kick in the teeth. Which bears the question: What does “overqualified” actually mean?
What Assumptions Make You “Overqualified”
1. You cost too much
While employers want top talent, they’re not always willing to pay for it. “Overqualified,” more often than not, boils down to affordability. Before the recruitment process begins, budgets pretty much dictate how much a company can or will pay a new hire. Your extra experience and skills are worth more than your less-qualified competition. Even if salary hasn’t been addressed, you can count on the employer’s perception that your desired salary will be higher than their budget. Instead of directly asking you about your pay requirements, they may dismiss you off the bat as “overqualified.”
2. You’ll be bored or above the work
A hiring manager is looking for a candidate who is willing to take on all the tasks of a role. The problem here is a misconception that someone who has held higher positions will consider some duties beneath them. If a hiring manager suspects the job is too easy for you, they’ll predict that you will soon get bored and then get a new job elsewhere. If an employer thinks for one second they won’t see a return on their onboarding investment, or that you could go sour and contaminate company culture, you’ll be considered “overqualified.”
3. Generational conflicts
A potential employer will never come out and tell you you’re too old for the job. They don’t want to get sued for violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, after all. Unfortunately, age discrimination still happens—maybe even unbeknownst to the perpetrator. Consider this: Your potential boss is younger than you, and they’re afraid of how you’ll respond to their authority. If they foresee a power struggle between you and younger managers, they’ll pass. It’s easier to not hire you than to see how it goes or admit to a bigger problem in company culture. Plus, “overqualified” doesn’t get them sued.
4. Recruiters drop the ball
I love recruiters. I work for a recruiting firm. But the truth is, some recruiters just won’t give you the opportunity to respond to the above concerns. Most won’t get past your resume, let alone talk to you about your reasons for wanting a job for which you seem “too” experienced.
I’ve touched on some concerns and issues a potential employer may have looking over an especially stacked resume. Now let’s consider the candidate’s potential reasons for applying in the first place.
Managers Should Consider True Motivation
Hiring managers should dig deep to understand what drives an overqualified candidate to apply for any role, especially one with less responsibility or compensation. They could miss out on a potentially great employee by assuming salary requirements will be out of reach.
Recent studies show a high salary ranks at about third among all the factors a job seeker considers. A convenient commute, good work/life balance, and flexibility to work from home are becoming as important, if not more important, than salary.
Consider these additional reasons why the overqualified candidate may be interested:
1. Better location
An easier commute might not be the reason everyone would downshift their position, but we all have different values. It’s rare that location would be the only reason for someone to make a job change, but it is certainly a significant one.
2. Less responsibility
We’re not sure how many people would come right out and say they want less responsibility. In a culture that prizes ambition, it doesn’t sound great and can even carry a stigma. But can’t we all relate to a time in our lives when the stresses of bringing home a new baby, or caring for an ailing parent or sick child took a mental and physical toll? Less responsibility sometimes equates to better work/life balance, and in turn, it can create a more loyal, dedicated employee.
3. Gets their foot in the door
In some cases, a company’s values and culture can resonate with a candidate so much that they’re willing to take a pay cut just to be a part of something they’re passionate about. Attracting and securing the best candidates who personify your mission and principles should be the priority.
If you think you might be overqualified, yet you get far enough to speak to a real person, like a recruiter or a hiring manager, directly addressing any potential assumptions, rather than letting a hiring manager jump to conclusions, could be the very thing to ease their mind and land you the job.
If you’re a hiring manager who’s lucky enough to be in the presence of a great candidate with “too much experience,” address the elephant in the room. Ask them about their motivation for considering a potential step down in pay or responsibilities. You could have someone on your hands whose input will be invaluable, whose advice will pay off, and whose contributions will reward your faith in them. What better return on investment is there than that?
Amanda Rebuck is a writer and content specialist who has worked in various industries, including information technology, e-commerce, and finance, as well as staffing and recruiting.
Note: This post was originally published on the Infinia Search website.