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If you have been looking for a position in this candidate-rich environment, you may have been told “you are over-qualified for this position”. When I speak at Job Seeker groups, I would say at least 50% of the attendants have been told they are over-qualified at least once.

Putting compensation aside, since I assume you are willing to work within the stated pay range; when interviewers tell candidates they are “over-qualified“, it typically means one of two things; although the interviewer will rarely actually say them.

First, it could mean you are more qualified than the person you will be reporting to. If you have more education, more experience or more significant accomplishments; the manager could be acting out of simple self-preservation. They will never actually admit it, but truthfully, that could be the case.

Second, it could mean the interviewer is afraid you will jump ship as soon as you find something more in your compensation range, that lines up better with your career goals/experience, or is closer to home. This is a real concern. Maybe not from your perspective, but definitely from theirs, it happens frequently. Conducting a search for a candidate is expensive and time consuming; nobody wants to do this search again in 3 months.

So how do you overcome this obstacle? I’m not sure I have any magic for this one, but if you are told you are “over-qualified“, try responding with something like this:

“You know, I have actually heard that before and I can certainly appreciate why companies may feel that way. Before you dis-qualify me, let me assure you of 2 things. First, although I have been in roles with more responsibility, I am very interested in this company and this team. If I was hired, my goal would be to ensure both the team and the team manager are successful. It has always been important to me to help my manager be successful.

Second, although I have made more money previously, the culture and stability of the company is the most important factor to me. So let me assure you, if I am hired, I will stop my search and will not leave you suddenly in a bind. I will be committed to this position. Do you mind if I ask you a question? If we are sitting down 2 years from now, what do you feel will have to happen over those 2 years for you to feel this has been a successful hire?”

You don’t have to do this verbatim and make sure it is personalized, sincere and honest. These are fears. You need to address them. This response does 2 things: First, it addresses the 2 potential unspoken fears head-on; and second, the closing question helps them visualize you being in the role in 2 years.

If you are hearing this a lot in your search, I would recommend writing out a similar response to the model I have given you, practice saying it until it sounds like you and then try it out a few times and see if you have any more success.

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