Overcoming the Challenge of Overqualification

Today’s job market is almost universally competitive. Organizations are becoming flatter and less hierarchical. As a result, securing high-level opportunities has become more challenging.

These days, it’s not unusual for CEOs and former executives to seek employment for which their skills and experience exceed those required, creating the paradox of overqualification. Rationally speaking, the richer an applicant’s professional background, the easier it should be to secure a position—but a recent phenomenon has seen the opposite.

Paradoxically, today’s competitive job market is seeing high-level professionals receive rejections on the basis that they are “too qualified” for a position. These are unfounded and unfair rejections that deny the candidates proper consideration.

Generally speaking, hiring managers doubt overqualified candidates’ loyalty to a position, believing they will abruptly leave when a higher-paying or higher-level option is available.  These rejections come from a mix of concerns. Here are some recommendations to overcome being perceived as overqualified.

Address Overqualification Directly

To overcome the challenge of overqualification, experienced candidates must manage expectations during the interview process. This entails acknowledging their own depth of experience and addressing it openly. Several leading sources even suggest gesturing to it before the interview begins, by mentioning it tactfully in the cover letter.

By addressing the mismatch between a candidate’s robust qualifications and the job’s slimmer requirements, the applicant places the issue of overqualification at the forefront of the interview, opening it up for discussion. This encourages the interviewer to voice any concerns he may have with the candidate’s level of experience, allowing the applicant to tactfully address them.

Refine Your Interview Approach

Interviewers may feel concerned that a candidate’s heavy qualifications will make them a disloyal or unfocused employee. To combat this, focus on describing how you see potential for growth (either personally or professionally), within the role. By framing the position as a challenge, interviewers are more likely to consider your intentions as genuine. 

You may also want to express that you’re not interested in climbing the corporate ladder by describing why the role itself appeals to you. Expressing the enjoyment and personal satisfaction you would gain from the job may also prove helpful in quelling interviewers’ worries regarding your intentions.

Additionally, hiring experts suggest tailoring your resume to each position’s requirements. While it’s never recommended that overqualified candidates dilute or conceal their past experience, resumes that highlight applicable skills in lieu of previous roles will likely be more convincing to interviewers.

Handling Rejection

Regardless of a candidate’s qualifications or interview skills, rejection is sometimes inevitable. When it occurs, take steps to guard yourself against its negative mental impacts.

While it’s beneficial to take feedback, reflect, and improve, candidates should never personalize a rejection or internalize it as a failure. More often than not, a rejection has little to do with the candidate and everything to do with specific position details which were not mentioned or expressed.

Rather than become overwhelmed or frustrated, choose to process these small losses with a respected colleague. To lessen the emotional toll of a strenuous job hunt, experts suggest simultaneously seeking multiple opportunities. That way, candidates are less likely to over-fixate on a single opportunity.

Even when one prospect falls through, the skilled professional will already have several other possibilities in the works. This prevents hyper-focusing. In turn, that energy can be funneled into the gainful pursuit of other employment options.

Are you currently on a Job Hunt? At Barbachano International we provide career advice to give you a competitive advantage in your career search. Please explore the following career resources and advice which can provide you with valuable guidance in achieving your career objectives. Also, you can take a look through our Job Portal and apply to the positions of your interest. We are happy to offer you guidance based on our experience in employment both in Mexico, Latin America, and the US.

By Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano

A photo of Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano

President and CEO of Barbachano International (BIP), the Human Capital Solutions leader in Mexico, Latin America, and the USA, offering high-impact executive search, executive coaching, and outplacement.

At Barbachano International, we understand the importance of recruiting and the return on investment that top talent can deliver for you. With 27 years in the industry, we know firsthand how imperative it is for an organization to have the right people to achieve its business objectives. We help you avoid painful hiring mistakes and reduce turnover by identifying top performers for your team that result in long-term success.

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