Overqualified?

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Q: My biggest frustration as an unemployed executive is potential employers telling me that I am “overqualified.” How do I counter this accusation? The fact is, I am generally guilty as charged. Nor does it work to argue that I’m not really as qualified as I appear to be. Short of shortchanging my credentials and accomplishments on my resume, which is probably unethical, how can I address this objection?

A: The first thing is not to take it personally. Remember that interviewers trot out the O-word as code for three worries. Interviewers are concerned that candidates with a certain level of experience will demand a higher salary than they want to pay; that even if the candidates accept the lower salary, they will not be happy and soon leave; and that if they stay, problems will arise if the candidate is more experienced or credentialed than his or her supervisor and co-workers. They are not making up these concerns. So your first task is to assure the interviewer that while these fears are reasonable, in your case, they are groundless. One way to do that is use your cover letter or job interview to reframe the objection. You can say: “With all due respect, let me suggest that it’s not that I am over-qualified for the job. Rather, as presented, the job is under-defined.”

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