Those three little words that sometimes ooze out of an interviewer’s mouth are real turnoffs to older job candidates. You hate to hear an interviewer say, “You are overqualified,” because you think the ball game is over. It isn’t. You can keep playing by immediately activating your built-in bullshit detector.
After all, if you were really overqualified, an interviewer wouldn’t have wasted her time by inviting you to interview in the first place. There’s something in your resume and cover letter that the interviewer liked well enough to select you as one of a group of applicants to be interviewed.
Chances are your interviewer has simply raised an objection to your candidacy. Your job is to calmly answer this objection in a way I’ll present in a moment.
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But first, what do you think a prospective employer is thinking when he raises the “overqualified” objection? Your interviewer might think you’re too rich for her blood. She’s worried that you made more money on your last job that this company an offer and when something better comes along you’ll quit. Or, an interviewer is prejudiced against your age, gender, or the way you part your hair.
Whatever the objection, you can handle it gracefully like my job-coaching client, Richard, did. After spending many years with the same company, the former technology manager was the victim of a downsizing. When Richard was told at an interview that he was overqualified, here’s how he responded:
“Look, I realize that I won’t be running a department as I did on my last job. But I can contribute as an analyst or business analyst. I already have my benefits package so I don’t need as large a salary. But I want to continue working for another fifteen years.”
While you have no control over a hiring manager’s bias, you do have control in your ability to assure a prospective employer that you love the job, you’re happy with the salary, and that you plan to stay there as long as the company will have you.
You need to think as salespeople do. They’re trained to handle objections to their product or service. Interviews are the selling parts of your job campaign. So you need to know how to handle objections to your candidacy in advance of interviews.
That’s what Richard did. And he got the offer by knowing in advance how to answer the “overqualified” objection and other tough interview questions Richard had anticipated in advance.