Overqualified...Under-appreciated.

May 10, 2021

Overqualified...Under-appreciated.

May 29, 2023

"Overqualified" is corporate code for "too old," "too expensive," or "too unimaginative." It’s often an ageist term. The fact is, most companies should want someone overqualified, especially if that talent comes at a fair price. It’s really the job applicant, not the company, who needs to determine if they’re overqualified.

Here’s my advice for your next interview (gleaned from a well-known executive recruiter)—three steps that might keep you from hearing the “overqualified” word, or what to say if you do hear it:

1. First off, if you get an in-person or video interview (assuming you get through some of the ageist filters), show up passionately engaged with lots of genuine curiosity. As the recruiter told me, that kind of energy is timeless and ageless, or as he put it, “They won’t necessarily notice your wrinkles because they’ll be so impressed with your energy and passion.”

2. If they do suggest you might be “overqualified,” consider whether it’s accurate and whether this particular job is what you’re interested in. On the other hand, if you’re simply looking for a foot in the door with the company, clarify that with the recruiters. In short, manage expectations.

3. Consider saying the following, without being too boastful or confrontational, “I don’t think I’m overqualified, but I might be under-appreciated. I’m what they call a ‘modern elder’ who’s as curious as she is wise, and I can offer an ‘invisible productivity’ that means I make everyone around me better. Also, as evidenced in Google’s Project Aristotle study, the most common variable of the most successful teams is 'psychological safety' and, due to our increasing EQ over our career, older workers like me are well-suited to creating very effective teams.” Of course, you’ll paraphrase and make the language your own, but don’t be afraid to speak your truth.

Chapter 9 of my book, "Wisdom@Work," details a variety of myths or stereotypes about older workers. You might read it before going in for your interview.

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