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What If I'm Overqualified for My Dream Job?

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I'm overqualified for a position that I really want. What can I say to convince the potential employer that I'm not going to jump ship as soon as a "better" job comes along? What other concerns should I be prepared to address?

A: This is a tricky one, but it is possible to manage the situation successfully. You've articulated one of the reasons managers don't want to hire an overqualified applicant—they fear the applicant won't stay long, and with the cost of hiring and training involved, they aren't willing to take that risk.

Managers are also suspicious that an overqualified applicant potentially knows more than they do, which is frightening to many people. Others see an overqualified applicant as a desperate applicant who has decided to "settle."

So, if you've decided to take a step back and apply for a job you know you're overqualified for, you have to overcome these objections and other concerns that may be on the hiring manager's mind.

Don't undersell your experience or try to hide previous jobs. Let your honest excitement and passion for the position shine through.

If you already have an interview scheduled, you need to be prepared to answer a tough question like, "You've had a lot more experience than this position requires. Why are you interested in this particular job?" Here are some ways to respond:

  • Sell your passion for a particular area of the job, discussing how you want to focus your career development in that area.
  • Show your excitement by having prepared work examples that showcase your skills and ability to excel in the role.
  • Speak about your dedication to the mission and how you think you can make a difference for the organization.

You want the hiring manager to be able to picture you doing the job and believe that hiring someone of your caliber will make his or her job easier and may even boost the manager's status in the organization.

When the question about your commitment level comes up and you sense the objection is rooted in how long will you stay, consider making a time commitment to the job. If you think this is the place for you, you might say that you will commit to two years or longer, for example.

Don't bring up salary first, but if the hiring manager asks you about your salary requirements, be prepared to say something like, "I'm sure we will be able to work out a salary that is fair. I expect to be paid what the position is worth in the marketplace."

A word of caution: Don't undersell your experience or try to hide previous jobs. Let your honest excitement and passion for the position shine through, and odds are you'll get the job.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]

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