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Job search: What to do when you're overqualified

Meridith Levinson | June 10, 2010
The odds of getting the job offer may be stacked against overqualified job seekers, but it's not impossible.

When Kohlman interviewed a woman last year who had been in an IT leadership position with the University of Wisconsin for an IT director position at his company, he had concerns about why she was applying for a lower-level position. Kohlman says the candidate was clear during the interview that downshifting was something she genuinely desired. He says she told him that she had been in a leadership position for several years and truly missed getting her hands dirty in IT, that she sought more work-life balance and wanted to relocate from Wisconsin to Bloomington to be closer to family. Kohlman hired her.

"As far as I know, she's very happy [in the position]," he says.

4. Allay managers' concerns that you'll threaten their jobs.

Stolpa, the IT job seeker, says during some job interviews he's sensed that the hiring manager is worried he might step on their turf. When he detects this concern, Stolpa says he tells the hiring manager that he understands the bounds and scope of the position for which he's interviewing and he wouldn't step out of it unless he was specifically called upon to offer additional experience or advice.

Stolpa wants hiring managers to know that "overqualified" professionals who've been in transition for a while don't want to be perceived as a threat. "We're willing to start at the bottom if we need to," he says. "We want to come back into an organization and be gainfully employed and provide a benefit."

5. Present yourself as a good value for the employer.

If you're willing to take a lower-level job and the salary that goes with it, market yourself as a good value for the company, says David Starmer, CIO of Boston, Mass.-based Back Bay Restaurant Group. Without coming off as desperate, make it clear to the hiring manager that she'll get more knowledge and experience for her money if she hires you than if she hired the average candidate.

Starmer says six months ago he hired a high-level IT architect who had worked in the financial services industry for 25 years to serve as a project manager in charge of overseeing software installations. Starmer says he chose this candidate because "he was the most qualified person for what we needed." The CIO also notes, "The benefit we get [from this candidate] far exceeds our costs."


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