The curse of being “overqualified”

February 22, 2010 at 2:14 am Leave a comment

Most mid-career job hunters have been labeled, at one time or another, as “overqualified” for a particular position. Sometimes this is code for being too expensive or not a good fit for the organization; other times it may be a subtle form of age discrimination. (See Jan. 25 post, “What you can do if  you suspect hiring discrimination.”) Yet often there may be legitimate worries on the part of the hiring manager about whether a candidate has TOO much experience for a particular job and may be likely to leave it the moment something better comes along.

First, ask yourself whether this is true — is the position for which you’re applying well below your level of expertise and experience, and if so, why are you seeking it? If you’re desperate to land anywhere, you may be setting yourself up for a fall. And if you’re hoping to talk the hiring manager into another position, you might be better off with a more general introduction to the company. However, if you truly believe you’d like this job, could do it well and it could lead to jobs with this company more in keeping with your experience level, here are some strategies experts suggest for convincing hiring managers that you are a good fit:

*Deal with their concerns directly and then show them why you’d be right for the opening. If you feel “overqualification” is a real concern, you could bring it up yourself in the interview by saying, “I can see why you might think my experience may be more than is needed for this particular position. But I really want this job and I think I’d be a good fit for these reasons.” Then, in detail, list some of your skills, talents and pertinent past successes that would be useful qualifiers — not “over”qualifiers — for this position. And don’t downplay what’s needed in this job in any way — you want to embrace what it requires.

*Try to avoid salary discussions until you are a finalist for the position. The “overqualification” label often arises when employers are worried that you’ll want to be paid more than is budgeted for a specific opening. If you have a strong interest in the job and salary isn’t your utmost concern, then try to allay other concerns and prove your worth for this job before talking about salary. It may allow an employer to move you into the next round of candidates for the job.

*Allow references and others in your network  to help make your case. Sometimes a hiring manager may not feel comfortable discussing the “overqualification” issue with you but could with a reference, especially a contact who initially referred you for the job. Prepare your references carefully to directly address this issue — even to bring it up if they feel it’s appropriate. They should say that even though a hiring manager may be concerned that you’ll leave the job soon, that you’ve been loyal to employers in the past and want this job for some good reasons. They may be able to scuttle this worry more effectively than you can. They can also emphasize what a good colleague you have proven to be and how comfortable you are working on teams — something that a hiring manager may be concerned about if they worry that a large ego may accompany all of your experience and expertise.

*And whenever the overqualification issue arises, it’s a good time to do some soul-searching about this opening and whether it’s right for you. Again, ask yourself whether this is a valid concern — and be honest with yourself about whether you might get bored, want to leave this job soon and what it will look like on your resume. And do some serious thinking about the pay — it may not be worth getting your foot in the door even with a good organization if you have to take a huge pay cut. Also, if this overqualification worry persists even if you move forward in the hiring process, ask yourself whether this is an organization that would respect your skills and talents, and is also open to having more experienced and older people at different levels of the company? If not, it may not be a good place to work and you may have saved yourself some big headaches down the road. Remember, the job-hunting process is not a one-way street: it’s not only about whether the potential employee would be good for the company but whether this is a workplace deserving of a job seeker’s time, energy and talents.

*And a host of job leads — in editing, reporting/writing and communications — to consider as you start this work week:

*InvestmentNews, a Crain Communications publication, is looking for a reporter in D.C. to cover the financial services industry:

Location: Washington, D.C.
InvestmentNews is seeking a deadline-oriented reporter to provide coverage on the financial services industry, with a strong emphasis on developments affecting the financial advice business. This person will report on subjects such as legislative and regulatory issues affecting financial advisers, developments in tax law that may affect advisers and their clients and Securities and Exchange Commission policies. This person will also be expected to cover live events in Washington, including Congressional hearings, SEC meetings and will also be expected to travel outside of the capitol to attend industry conferences or meet with the InvestmentNews’ management team in New York.  This person will provide coverage for our flagship InvestmentNews weekly newspaper, our daily e-newsletter and our special reports. In addition, this reporter would also be expected to take part, and in some cases oversee webcasts, round-table discussions and conference panels. The position is based in DC and involves being a part of a team of U.S.-based reporters.  If you are a news hound with six to ten years of experience, particularly in covering financial services or financial advice, we encourage you to apply.

– Six to ten years of professional news reporting experience in a deadline-driven environment, especially in working to daily and weekly deadlines.
– Demonstrated ability to break hard-hitting news.
– Bachelor’s degree in journalism or related field.
– Ability to develop a wide variety of sources, including those on Capitol Hill and within such regulatory bodies as the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
– Ability to turn complex subject matter into clear, well-organized news stories and to translate jargon into meaningful news to an informed audience.
– Ability to work collaboratively, take direction and be flexible.

Crain Communications Inc is one of the largest privately-owned business publishers in the U.S. with over 28 leading business, trade and consumer titles in North America and Europe. As an authoritative source of vital news and information to industry leaders and consumers worldwide, each of the company’s newspapers, magazines and electronic news sites have become required reading in their respective sector of business and consumer market. Providing unmatched value and award-winning editorial excellence, the company is respected for its dependable journalism which readers have relied upon for over 90 years.

Crain Communications offers a competitive salary, a generous benefits package, and a friendly work environment. This is a great time to join our organization — a well established publishing leader.  To apply for this position please visit our website at and search under the employment section.

*Platts has an opening for an associate editor/reporter in D.C. to cover the nuclear power  industry:

Associate Editor
Location: Washington, DC
Platts is seeking a reporter to provide coverage on the North American nuclear power industry.  This person will report on subjects such as existing nuclear power plant operations, plans for new nuclear power plants, US uranium production, and US Nuclear Regulatory Commission policies. This person will provide coverage for our flagship Nucleonics Week newsletter, daily Nuclear News Flashes and biweekly publications Inside NRC and NuclearFuel. Responsibilities also include filing to Platts real-time news service. The position is DC based.  If you are a reporter with four to six years of experience, particularly in covering energy or business topics, we encourage you to apply:

*The State Department in D.C. has an opening for a writer-editor:

Department of State – Washington, DC
and preparing informal training on writing standards… Competence. Written Communication. Customer Service Oral Communication To preview the Assessment… $89,033 – $115,742 a year

*Analytica is posting a job for a Web editor/content migration specialist to help maintain the Web standards and publishing processes for District of Columbia government Web properties that make up the DC.Gov web portal:

Web Editor / Content Migration Specialist 8+ Years
ANALYTICA – Washington, DC
and graphic resizing, training, agency site launches… Skill    Amount of Experience Oral and written communication skills    8  Years Editing and copy editing…

*The National Breast Cancer Coalition in D.C. has an opening for a director of marketing and communications:

Director of Marketing and Communications
National Breast Cancer Coalition – Washington, DC
and recruitment and training of scientists; • Access… and electronic communications to Convio. • Integration of text messaging communication services via…

*Conservation International in D.C. is looking for a senior director of corporate communications:

Sr. Director, Corporate Communications
Conservation International – Washington, DC
Communications & Marketing serves as the liaison between CELB and Global Marketing and Communicationscommunications staff to ensure open communication

*The National Transportation Safety Board in D.C. has an opening for a deputy director of communications:

Deputy Director, Office of Communications
National Transportation Safety Board – Washington, DC
of Communications. This individual serves as a full deputy and key advisor to the Office Director who is responsible for all external communication activities… $119,554 – $173,565 a year

*And today’s final lead requires a ride up I-95, to Philadelphia, but it’s for an interesting opening for a founding/managing editor for a health policy online newsletter at the Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania:

Reference Number: 091127688

The Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania seeks an experienced Editor to create and manage an on-line health policy publication. You will work with world-renowned faculty, staff and professional organizations in an innovative, team-oriented and cutting-edge environment. We offer excellent benefits, competitive salaries, professional development opportunities, and a dynamic environment that supports diversity.

The primary responsibilities of this position include oversight of all aspects of the creation and management of an on-line health policy publication (a high-impact vehicle for reaching broader audiences) under general supervision by the Executive Director of LDI. This entails writing content and managing staff, editorial oversight, marketing, design, technology and budget. This individual also will use the e-line magazine to promote the work of the LDI faculty and build and maintain internal and external relations to extend magazine impact. This e-magazine represents a vital strategic initiative for LDI and plays a critical role in the dissemination of health policy knowledge to the nation and the world.

BA/BS in communications or health policy related discipline required, Masters preferred 5 years experience in health policy communications and web-based technology. Extensive skills in health policy synthesis. Excellent verbal and written communication skills. Extremely organized with strong time management skills. Ability to build and maintain internal and external relations to extend magazine impact. Position contingent upon funding.

To apply to this position please submit resumes online at the University of Pennsylvania’s website – (use the reference code 091127688 to find this particular position).

Happy hunting in this last week of February!!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Tips on using job boards How to handle that deafening silence

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