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What to do when they say, 
"Aren’t you overqualified?"

by Andrea Kay    

If an interviewer has ever said to you, "I’m afraid you’d be bored," it doesn’t take a genius to know what they’re getting at. They obviously think you’re overqualified for the position.
But what if you’re not? Or even if the position has less responsibility than your last one, but it’s what you’re looking for, how do you keep them interested?

Your first reaction will probably be to say, "No, I’m not!" But just telling them that doesn’t change their mind. In fact, your protests can turn them off, even strengthen their resolve that you’re not the right person for the job.
As unwarranted or ridiculous as their concern might seem to you, you must address it. It’s a fear the interviewer has about your ability to do the job or your fit with the company. Denying it won’t make the fear go away.
You must help the interviewer overcome their objection. Here are the steps to take to help do that:

   1. Acknowledge the concern. This helps open the door for a discussion about their misconception, wrong impression or preconceived notion.   Say something like: "I can see why you might think that."

    2. Ask questions to understand where they’re coming from. Then ask, "Could you tell me more about your concern?" This can lead the way for the interviewer to tell you what they’re thinking: that you won’t be challenged, won’t stay long or they can’t offer you the salary you’d expect.

    3. Clear it up. Now that you know the concern, you can say something like: "I see. I didn’t mean to give the impression that I was looking for a managerial position again…" or "It’s true, I’ve had more responsibility in the past, but now my goal is to find a position where I can contribute my technical skills at a team level…"
You can add that you plan to be a committed, long-term member of this team. You can also address the salary issue in a general way by saying, "I’m sure we can come to a mutual agreement on salary if we both decide I’m the right person for the job."
But what if the interviewer doesn’t overtly state their concern? You just know it’s going to be an issue or it has been in the past. Whether objections are obvious, implied or sensed, exert your influence.
You can bring it up before they do—or in case they’re thinking it and not saying anything. Try something like: "As you can see, I have been involved in many levels of business including management. At this point in my career, I don’t feel I need that challenge and am seeking a position where I can use my technical skills…"
If you’re a seasoned worker or have experience at a higher level than the types of jobs you’re interviewing for, expect to hear or sense this concern from employers. It’s natural. Think through in advance how you’ll react in the interview. Look for ways to support your objective on your resume and downplay information that makes this a bigger issue.
Since you can’t control the interviewer’s reaction, be prepared to do the only thing you can do—influence it.  

© 2001 by Andrea Kay. All Rights Reserved. Copyrighted work used with permission.

Career consultant Andrea Kay is the author of: 

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