Looking for Work? Be Seen as Experienced Rather Than Overqualified

Oh, that dreaded "o" word. Job seekers over 40 hear it all the time: "You're overqualified." Makes you want to scream or cry.


Instead, be ready to tackle it with confidence.

These are the four most common questions and comments that job seekers on Facebook and Twitter told me they're faced with around the topic of being overqualified.

VIDEO: Tory Johnson offers tips for using your experience to get the perfect job.Play
Overcome Being Overqualified

"When a recruiter says, 'Sorry, you're overqualified,' how should I respond?"

Keep talking! The biggest mistake is to assume the conversation ends there. Probe. Ask, with genuine curiosity, not defensively, "What exactly do you mean by that? Please tell me what your specific concerns are." The goal is to engage in conversation to get the recruiter or hiring manager to reveal the real meaning behind the label. It's important for you to understand what the employer is truly concerned about that's causing them to dismiss you as overqualified. And most likely, you'll be able to answer or address it from there.

"I've been told, 'You'll be bored.' Even though I know I won't be, I'm not sure how to convey that."

You can say, "One of the benefits of a solid work history is the wisdom and experience of avoiding a situation where I'd be bored or where I'd be an awkward fit. That's not good for either of us." Add that you thought seriously about that very issue before applying for the position, and then move into explanation why exactly you're a great match. Turn "overqualified" into "exceptionally qualified."

"Because of my age, a couple of employers have expressed concern that I might resist direction from a younger or less experienced manager. Truth is, I'd be fine with that, but I don't know how to say so."

There's no doubt that age bias exists, and generational diversity is a challenge for many people. A few things: One of the common unspoken stereotypes among younger managers is the idea that they couldn't possibly manage mom. So you can smile and joke, "You don't need a parent and you're not looking to be one!" You're looking to be an employee and a collaborator.

If you've had a younger manager in a previous position, mention that and emphasize all of the positive attributes of that relationship. "My best boss happened to be younger than me -- and I did some of my best work under her direction."

Don't refer to the "good ol' days," or, "The way we've always done it." It may seem familiar and friendly, but it fuels the stereotypes of older workers.

Keep up with technology and be sure you can talk about your technical skills, including use of online social networks. (Even including the URL for your LinkedIn profile or your Twitter account -- assuming both are professional -- on your resume can emphasize your comfort level with technology.)

"I've been told several times by a staffing firm that hiring managers are worried that I'll leave when something better comes along."

What I'd love to answer to that is, "Ah, wouldn't you? Don't most people bolt when something much better comes along?" But of course you can't say that. You should point to loyalty to a previous employer -- show a long-term prior commitment to break the notion that you're a job hopper.

You can also say, "I have every intention of diving in and making a great impact on this organization -- and I'll do everything in my power to make this a mutually-rewarding long-term relationship. Leaving is the last thing on my mind." Asked and answered!

Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on ABC's "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women For Hire. Talk to her at Twitter.com/ToryJohnson.

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