Tim’ thought the interview went really well.  He was pleased when the HR person confirmed that the team liked him.  So he was was astonished to hear this: “they were so impressed, they wondered why you would want this position. You seem really overqualified.”

How do you respond to that?

First, understand what “overqualified” really means:

  1. they think you’re too expensive;
  2. you’ll be bored and start looking really soon; and/or
  3. you’ll make other people feel uncomfortable – through no effort on your part, just they are insecure.

If you think one of these things is at play, you’re right.  We usually know what’s going on, so trust your gut.*

Then, deal with these objections by addressing them point blank.  Here are some suggested responses:

  1. You may be thinking I’m too expensive. I think we can come to a mutually agreeable comp package that works for both of us, so let’s discuss it. [Keep in mind that you get to say ‘that’s less than I was hoping for’ when they quote you a figure lower than your ‘I can live with this’ number.]
  2. What’s really interesting about this job is what I’ll learn. While I do bring a lot of experience, your clients are different in these ways, and I am pumped about learning your business. Based on what I know, I see the job as a challenge and a place to further develop my own skills.
  3. There’s a difference in size between our agencies, so I find it more useful for us to look at the scope of business I managed.  At a small agency, I got to do a lot of things I wouldn’t do here, but here I’d be able to work more in-depth.  Also, the great thing about the group here is how both experienced and fresh they are. I’ve found that I do my best work with people who have different experience levels and backgrounds, so it’s exciting to me that the team is diverse in age as well as skill set. My style is to collaborate and learn who the people are so I can benefit from their knowledge and experience.

You can answer these objections in the interview itself, or in a follow-up after the interview.  Addressing potential objections in an interview is great strategy because you reassure people in the moment and don’t leave them a lot of time or space to cast doubt on your candidacy.

Above all, remember that what people want is a compelling WIIFM (‘what’s in it for me’) reason for you to take a job for which you appear “overqualified.”  It has to make sense to them for you to want to take the position.

Often these responses do the trick.

  • One client got the job after writing a follow-up letter explaining something similar to #3, disarming her potential boss who had seemed threatened both by my client’s lengthier experience and her accomplishments.
  • Another client got a second interview.
  • And ‘Tim’ – who led off our story – used his experience to head off the objection in another interview, with the result that the person he just met is finding a position for him.

If you still are considered ‘overqualified,’ count your blessings that you won’t have to work with people who don’t appreciate your abilities.