How To Answer ‘Aren’t You Overqualified?’ In A Job Interview
The perfect job in leadership or management has caught your eye. It ticks all your boxes. The role fits so much like a glove, you could even train and manage people to fill this very position for you. It requires 10 years of experience, but you have 15. Or perhaps, it lists specific skills that are essential in an ideal candidate, but you’re confident you bring that to the table…and then some. Shouldn’t that work in your favor? Maybe having more years of experience or more skills will convince them to hire you above the next candidate who only just closely matches the requirements?
You don’t want to apply for a more senior role because you’ve decided to take a step back and still work in a leadership position, while dialling down the stress and pressure of senior responsibilities for your mental health. Or maybe it’s just because you desire to spend more time with your family. Regardless of the reason, you’re eager to contribute your wealth of expertise to this new organization—and you’re thrilled to work with them because, from your research, you know it’s an amazing employer.
But then the death knell is struck when the interviewer poses the question, “Aren’t you a bit overqualified for this job?” There seems to be an incredulous sarcasm in their voice.
How do you answer this sensitive question without jeopardizing your chances of securing this dream role?
How Not To Answer
While it may be tempting to play down your skills and qualifications at the interview, don’t—because the right employer will see them all as valuable assets and appreciate you for it. Don’t lie and pretend that you are less skilled or experienced than your resume suggests. You’re only doing yourself harm in the process and stifling your freedom of expression, and the potential opportunity to showcase how serious you are about working for them. Likewise, don’t answer with, “I am using this as a short-term role to tie me over,” or “This is my second job due to the cost of living crisis.” This only confirms a red flag to the hiring manager and makes you even more risky to work with.
Here are a few things to bear in mind first:
What The Employer Is Really Asking
As with any job interview, read between the lines and understand the underlying intent behind the question. This will help you as you frame and prepare your answer. A few reasonable considerations for why the employer might ask this question could be:
- Concerns about your long-term commitment to the role: Especially if you are applying for a managerial post where you have major responsibility over teams or key projects, employers want to know that you are in it for the long-haul, not as a temporary tie-over. They may also be concerned about investing time and money into training and onboarding you, only to have you leave when the time is right for a more challenging role externally.
- Do you have growth potential? The employer may genuinely want to hire someone less-experienced so they can train and develop them up the ladder into more senior positions.
- Concerns about realistic salary expectations: Why would you really want to take on a role that offers you a salary that is less than the market rate for your skill-set and expertise?
- Concerns about fitting within team dynamics: How would you engage with your team and are you comfortable taking directives when you naturally would feel you know what is best because you have more experience?
Bearing this in mind, let’s consider some reasonable answers:
5 Sample Answers For “Aren’t You Overqualified For This Job?”
- “While my qualifications and experience exceed stipulated requirements, I believe this will be an asset to your company because I have a unique angle that I bring to this role which I am confident will enrich your team. In the long-term, I’m looking forward to contributing as a mentor to other members of the team as I settle into my role.”
- “Even though I worked in [senior job title] before, I’ve come to realize that my main passion is in working more hands-on and doing [specific aspect of the new job which is different to last role] so I prefer to further my career at your organization doing this instead.”
- “While I may have extensive experience in [name of field or role], I am currently making a career pivot so am seeking something more in line with my long-term goals. When I saw this role, I couldn’t help but see myself here for the long-term as it perfectly matches my career aspirations.”
- “While I do have X years of experience, other roles that require my years of experience are more senior level. I would like to scale back so I can be able to concentrate on giving my best energy to the work I am doing while also [devoting time to my professional studies/working as a carer/taking care of my family].”
- “I understand your concern, but when I saw this role, I couldn’t resist applying for it because I want to be able to master [professional challenge] and contribute meaningfully to your project. This is a domain I am very passionate about and I am committed to see it succeed.”
So while in truth, you may be overqualified, you can turn what could be viewed as a red flag, into a positive signal that will demonstrate to the employer that you are dedicated and committed to long-term success—for your own professional development and for the team you will be managing or collaborating with. Don’t rule out a career pivot or change of career plan because you have “too many” years of experience.