While the rampant use of the “Overqualified” tag as a reason not to hire someone does exist, it is often a legitimate response from a hiring manager. In the Desired Salary post, I listed reasons why hiring managers may shy away from hiring someone with more than the desired amount of experience and education. So what is an applicant to do if he/she is serious about the position, even if it means taking a pay cut? Here are some strategies to consider:
1) Network: Networking is my answer to everything! Seriously, having a contact who can relay to a hiring manager that you are serious about the job and the salary will wipe out most of the hiring manager’s red flags about you being overqualified. I personally have interviewed and hired individuals, who on paper were way above the position, because a contact had relayed to me that the person was serious about the job.
2) Cover Letter: Using a cover letter, phone call, or some other communication method to express your seriousness can also convince a hiring manager to grant you the interview. I remember one cover letter from a candidate who had been at the highest levels in the finance division of a company (job I was hiring for paid in the low 40’s) – he expressed an appreciation for the career path he had and that he was transitioning to more of a “give back” mode (this fit with the focus of the job). Also in the cover letter he spelled out how he had prepared, and begun, his efforts at his “give back” career mode. The applicant went from the candidate we could not afford to hire to the candidate we could not afford to hire as he was such a bargain given his level of expertise.
3) Guarantees: This is a very controversial idea – and not one I always support but have seen work – to offer a “guarantee” not to leave for a certain time period. An alum, who believed he was being passed over for jobs due to his level of experience, offered at an interview not to leave the position for a agreed upon period of time. While the employer could never legally enforce the alum’s offer, it communicated to the hiring manager that he was serious about the job and salary. Think of it as a new twist to the “non-compete” clause.
4) Resume: Be sure your resume is not killing your chances. There is no rule that states you must list EVERY job you have held or your graduation year. An employee I hired did not list his undergrad/MBA dates and provided work information covering the last 15 years of his career. From his resume, it was obvious there were other jobs (no one starts out at the level where his resume left off) but it avoided anyone from trying to do the math to figure out his age. Also, job entries from 15+ years ago don’t hold much weight when evaluating candidates, so why include them? Think about it, would a job you held in 1995 impact your ability to perform a different job in 2010?
These are ideas of how to avoid the “Overqualified” stamp. They do not always work, but they are strategies one can employ. Again, I would only recommend these tactics if one is serious about the job, and subsequent salary adjustment, for a reasonable time period.