Job Search 50: 4 Ways to Overcome the Overqualified Objection

As a job-seeker over 50, you have likely faced one of the most frustrating aspects of looking for work: being told that you are overqualified for the position. This point is used as a common excuse to overlook mature applicants in favor of their younger counterparts. Too often employers consider older workers to be (a) lacking energy and drive; just putting in time until they retire, (b) reluctant to report to a younger or less qualified boss or (c) using the position as an interim step until something better comes along.

If you have run into the overqualified objection, here are 4 ways you can address this unfortunate issue head on:

1. Target your resume and interview responses to the specifics of the position and the company.

  • To present yourself as the ideal candidate, you will need to target your skill sets (both in writing and verbally) to match as closely as possible with the skills required in the posting.
  • In addition to aligning your skills with the job description, research the company to determine their direction, mission statement and overall goals. Ask yourself, "Why am I uniquely qualified to add value to this particular position? How will my personal strengths and qualifications match the goals of the manager, the department, and the organization as a whole?"
  • Take notes and be specific. Your research will form the basis for selecting appropriate examples and skills to include on your resume and how you will direct each of your responses during a job interview.
  • Remember that whatever you claim on your resume or refer to in an interview needs to be 100 percent truthful. It is your decision, however, as to which skills and experience you choose to emphasize.

2. Be aware of the potential red flag so that it doesn't catch you by surprise.

  • If the suggestion that you are overqualified is brought up during your job interview, it is likely a large red flag--and one you will need to address immediately. Because you have already been screened as to your suitability for the position by the skills you've listed on your resume, this mention is an indication that someone on the hiring team is feeling threatened by you.
  • Be prepared to explain that your intention is to act in support of your future boss and coworkers. You also want to indicate that you are willing to take direction. Consider saying something like, "My work gives me great satisfaction. I'm certain that working in a firm such as this will afford me many exciting challenges and opportunities for growth. Each company is different and I look forward to learning new ways of doing my job and becoming a contributing member of your team."
  • You can also address the issue proactively by asking open-ended questions such as "How can the new hire best support your efforts?" Then show how your qualifications and your attitude will prove an asset.

3. Stress your enthusiasm, energy and eagerness to add value.

  • Show how your years of experience will provide a substantial and real advantage. "I am looking for a position where my skills and background can contribute to the bottom line. Because of my years of experience, I'm sure I can hit the ground running and make a real difference in support of your goals."
  • Articulate your interest in the position, the company and your reasons for wanting to become a loyal member of the organization. "I know what I want, am excited about this opportunity and am glad I can offer you extra value. There are several reasons why I want to work for this organization (list them) and I'm looking forward to contributing for years to come."

4. Use the phrase, "at this point in my career."

  • Work/life balance becomes more important as we age. If, in fact, you have decided to step down somewhat and take a job with less responsibility, you want to represent your choice in a positive light. Say something like, "I've enjoyed my years as a manager. Yet, at this point in my career, I have come to the realization that I prefer doing the hands-on work myself. I get a real boost by producing a tangible result from my efforts, so this position should be a perfect fit for me and my current career path."
  • Do not forget to underscore your enthusiasm for the job (even though it may not hold the same responsibility as your prior positions).

If you anticipate the potential objections you might encounter due to your age and experience level, you can prepare the appropriate responses to help you address these issues head on. Despite the challenges, you will want to display a winning attitude, a willingness to learn and emphasize your eagerness to make a long-term contribution. These points will go a long way to help you overcome the overqualified objection and turn your experience into the asset it truly is!

Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty plus years of experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it's packed with critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!

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