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 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 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 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 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 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 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?”

  1. “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.”
  2. “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.”
  3. “While I may have exten­sive expe­ri­ence in [name of 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.”
  4. “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].”
  5. “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 or col­lab­o­rat­ing with. Don’t rule out a career piv­ot or change of career plan because you have “too many” years of expe­ri­ence.

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