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Overqualified? So why invite me for an interview?

Amanda Datchens //  0 Comments

Yes, you want to say this if you’re told you are overqualified but don’t. Instead, use this counterintuitive tactic to change their mind and get the job.


“Tell me, why do you want this job? It seems like it would be a backward step for you?”

“Given your experience to date, do you really feel this role will be challenging enough?”

“I’m afraid this role will not be paying anything like you have been used to.”

Whichever way they word it, you know when you are being labelled as overqualified in an interview.

And it’s annoying, really annoying, so it triggers most people into being defensive and fighting their corner.

“Well, I just thought it’s all over anyway now because they have made up their mind, yet again, but I still wanted them to know why they were wrong” said Peter, one of my clients, the other day.

Actually, it’s very rarely all over if they think you are overqualified… but more on that later.

So, what should you say if you are accused of being overqualified?

Here are three to avoid in the heat of the moment.

Don’t say these 3 things when they say you are overqualified

If you have done any of these, don’t worry, they are normal responses.

Just stop and think in the future.

I’m really not that good - or words to that effect

For example, explaining away an achievement because it was in a smaller sized organisation.

Or saying that you only got promoted due to an internal restructure rather than deserving it.

If you manage to convince them, you have let yourself down.

You are totally wrong

Arguing with an interviewer about their viewpoint is basically saying that they are underqualified in their job.

Now, it may well be that they don’t have the skills or experience to make this judgement, but how can this approach ever produce a positive outcome?

You are right but I still really want this job

You have just let the overqualified elephant into the room - and now it has nowhere to go.

There’s no escaping the fact that there is a problem, and all the risk is on their side as to whether they believe or trust you.

They will be thinking why? What’s the real story?

Will they just stay until something better comes along?

Responding defensively could ruin an interview that could actually have been positive.

Remember what I said earlier about it not being the end of the world if they say you seem overqualified?

Well, here’s why.

Why it’s not over if they say you are overqualified

Think about this logically.

Why did they invite you in?

I’m sure they didn’t want to waste their time with a meeting that could have been avoided.

There are many possibilities such as only having a few candidates to choose from.

Being on the fence about whether the role was right for you but wanting to see who you are as a person in case there is a fit.

Or even the fact that they have an alternative role that will be coming up shortly, but they can’t talk about it yet.

But, whatever the reason, they all have one thing in common.

You have a chance.

So why waste it with a negative reaction?

Instead of being defensive and downplaying being overqualified, do the opposite.

Overqualified? Own it

Sure, fight your corner, but do it in the right way.

Acknowledge what they say but then move it on to a positive.

Something like “I understand why you may feel that way, but the truth is that….”

Let’s reframe those common questions from earlier to see what this counterintuitive approach looks like in practice.

“Tell me, why do you want this job? It seems like it would be a backward step for you?”

“I’m glad you brought this up because this is important to me. I have been thinking long and hard about my career and where I would like to be in 5 years, and I always base my decision on a company and not a particular job. I see there is huge future potential to grow my career with [company name] because [give researched reasons]. I’m taking a long-term view and I’m confident that the skills and experience I have will take me further with [company name] than with your competitors.”

Addresses their fear of you leaving quickly, and answers specifically your motivation and why you want to work for them.

“Given your experience to date, do you really feel this role will be challenging enough?”

“Great question, thank you for addressing this. Can we please go through the role in a little more detail? [Have questions ready, ask them, attentively listen to their response]. I’m comfortable with what you have told me but if you are still concerned, how about giving me more? Perhaps extend the scope with extra projects or maybe increase targets? I’m happy to take on any challenges you may have for me or to train others to do the same.”

Addresses their fear of you being bored and makes you a value-added candidate they could do more with. Positions you for any other more senior roles they may actually be screening you for without telling you.

“I’m afraid this role will not be paying anything like you have been used to.”

“I understand where you are coming from with this, but I totally believe in proving my worth. I’m sure we can come up with a heavily performance-based package and set salary reviews based on my performance. I’m also happy for you to extend the scope of this role and perhaps have increased targets.”

Addresses their fear of your salary expectations and opens up a dialogue going forwards rather than them just assuming they can’t afford you.

A word of caution

This works – so make sure you actually want the job.

If, in reality, you really are only taking a job as a stop gap, it will not reflect well for you going forwards because the company will waste valuable time and money recruiting, onboarding, and training you.

And that is something you will need to address at future interviews when they ask why you left.

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About the Author

A career coach, headhunter, Amanda has founded and been involved in developing multiple companies known for innovative HR and recruitment solutions. Originally from London but now in Queensland, Australia, she is the co-founder of Real Life Career Advice

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