This is one of those “fatal flaw” questions that I mentioned where they think out loud and are telling you what the reluctance is. If you want to accept this statement as “the kiss of death,” you can but it doesn’t necessarily mean that. The overqualified question or “aren’t you a little overqualified for this job” is an opportunity to sell yourself and do it smoothly and professionally.
I want to deal with the question on an overt level first and then on a covert level. The overt level is exactly what the question is. They are concerned that you are going to get bored in the job and that as soon as you find a better opportunity, you are going to leave.
The way to approach this question is when you are thinking about overtly is to say to them, “Look, the job market is what it is. You can look at it as being that I’m overqualified but the fact of the matter is, the market is tough right now and is to be tough for quite some time. So, the market is telling me that I need to adapt. I need to look at things from a different perspective.
“I could hold out for a job that was at my previous level and I can be out of work for a long time and I’m not looking to do that. From your vantage point, I can understand your reluctance. Your concern is I would want to jump ship as soon as something better came along. The fact of the matter is I want to join an organization where I will enjoy the work. What I can do for you is, in addition to doing this role, where you wouldn’t have to train someone to do it, you get the benefit of all my experience in this kind of role and I can be of help to you as you try to sort out other things. Or, I can just do the job you are asking me to do and, frankly, I would enjoy doing that.”
That’s the overt answer to the question of, “Aren’t you overqualified?” The covert question is, “Gee, you look a little old. Could you work for someone younger?” That’s a little trickier.
There, you can go on to say something along the lines of (this is a continuation of the other answer), “I have worked with people of all kinds of backgrounds. I worked with people who are more senior and younger than I am. In all cases, we have gotten along beautifully. They’ve asked for help and I have been willing to give it. I want people to do very well. If they do well, I do well. “
That becomes a very simple way of deflecting of ageism that shows up subtly in these kinds of questions.”
Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1800 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
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