How to Handle the Dreaded “Over-Qualified Objection”


unemployment11As I continue my seemingly-Quixotic quest of finding meaningful employment at the tender young age of 55, I found myself becoming more and more critical of my search methods and my impressive (if I have to say so, myself) resume.

My self-examination has left me wondering, could my resume be too impressive? Am I coming off as “over-qualified”?

Mmmm. could be.

According to Miriam Salpeter, in an article posted on,

While you may think employers should be happy to have overqualified candidates fill their positions, the opposite is actually true: many employers won’t even consider a candidate with too much education or experience. Why?

  • They worry the candidate will be “too expensive.”
  • Employers assume (probably correctly) that the overqualified applicant will leave at the first chance to land a better opportunity.
  • Hiring managers may be concerned an overqualified candidate would become easily disgruntled and unhappy in the job. No one wants to bring on a potential “grumpy Gus” or “sad Sally” to their team.

How can job seekers address these concerns?

Target appropriate jobs. Apply for jobs well suited to your background and work experience. Now that you know that getting a job beneath your qualifications isn’t necessarily easier than landing a more fitting position, stop wasting your time applying for jobs that hiring managers don’t want to hire you to do.

If opportunities well suited for your are few and far between, consider investigating other industries that require similar skills and write a great resume that proves your skills in another field are transferable to the new field. (It can be a tough sell, but it’s a better use of your time and more likely to land you an offer than applying for jobs below your grade.)

The best way to transfer industries is to network with people who work in the organizations where you’d like to land a job. If you can convince new contacts that you’re well qualified, they may be willing to refer you for a position, and studies show referrals are much more likely to land interviews than people applying for jobs online.

Address the salary issue. Maybe there’s a good reason you’re applying for jobs similar to what you did 5 or 10 years ago. If you’re purposefully ramping down your responsibilities, make a point to explain that to the hiring manager. Most applications list a salary requirement; make sure to fill it in with a salary range appropriate to the job. On your cover letter and in conversations with hiring managers and networking contacts, explain why, at this stage of your career, you recognize there are more important things than a high salary. Identify positives, such as work-life balance (if appropriate) and the opportunity to work for an organization with a good reputation and talented colleagues. Give good reasons for wanting the job that don’t make you sound desperate for a paycheck.

Make a time commitment. When you have a chance to speak to someone about the opportunity, make it clear that you plan to stay in the job for a certain amount of time. If you are committed to this type of job, make it clear that the opportunity is a destination, not a jumping off point for you.

Make a convincing case for why the job is a good match. It’s always up to the candidate to make a case for why he or she is a good fit, but it’s even more important for overqualified workers. Study the job description and be able to point out exactly why you’re a good person for the job. Make a convincing case that this job, at this stage of your career, is exactly what you want to do.

Ms. Salpeter makes some excellent points. As I have previously written, “business veterans”, such as myself, need to take advantage of any piece of useful information we come across, in order to remain a viable candidate for employment in this challenging economy and highly competitive job market.

Just as it has always been, when searching for a job, there are times when you may have to take a small step back in your career, in order to take a bigger step forward.

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. – John Quincy Adams

No matter what…

Never give up. Never surrender.



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