How to Answer the Overqualified Job Interview Question

Have you ever experienced being asked during a job interview (sometimes the second or third interview), “Aren’t you overqualified for this job?”  

(Side note: I mean, can’t the person interviewing you tell you are overqualified from looking at your resume? Do they need to bring you in once or multiple times to verify that?)

Even if you are going in for the first interview, and they ask you what seems like the “Overqualified Job Interview Question,” here is what that tells me: 

It tells me that the company has interest in you.

Think about it.

They should already know that you are overqualified. They called you in because they wanted to see if you are the right person for the job.  If you’re getting rejected it’s not for being overqualified—it’s because of something you said.

As an overqualified candidate, you need to convince the hiring manager how your experience will benefit the company. How you handle the question can determine whether or not you advance through the hiring process.

Here are seven ways you can address the “Overqualified Job Interview Question”:

(1) “I have hired and overseen ‘bad’ overqualified people and I simply won’t perform that way, if hired.”

“I have hired talented, overqualified people who seemed to have brought in their Mr. Hyde side upon starting work and have acted badly on the job: i.e. bossy to others, undermining of management, taking on initiatives without communicating, usurp duties from others resulting in redundancies of efforts, taking credit for other people’s work, not being a team player since they clearly were above it all and more. In hiring me, I would ensure you would be benefiting from what I learned from making those mistakes.”

(2) “I have managed ‘good’ overqualified staff. I will clearly emulate the good, if hired.”

“I have been lucky to have hired and overseen fabulously overqualified talent who saw themselves as someone who had a job to do that was part of a team. That overqualified person I managed realized early on they can’t lose if they do the work to exceed the company or department goals with no drama. That is the person who I will be, if I am hired.”

(3) “I want work that interests me and keeps my hands dirty, so to speak.”

“The one not-so-great thing about rising up through the ranks, is you get to a point where you are managing managers who manage other managers. Executives can sometimes get far removed from the sales process, client interaction, operations line or field. By taking on this manager-level role, I can resume working with the [sales, client, operations or field] team again. That type of work really excited me in my career and I would be thrilled to get back to it! I want to be challenged in a different way now.”

(4) “If hired, I believe it is my job to make my management team look good. If you look good, I look good.”

“I had great staff working for me and I would be conducting myself in the same manner working for you. I would hope you can benefit from my experience when applicable and know that I would give generously to the group’s efforts however I can.”

(5) “I know it is important to follow direction at times and just run with it at times.”

“I have developed the judgment through my experience to know when each of those instances need to happen at the right time.” As a previous Director, I know that there were many times I wanted my team to simply run with it and leave me out of the minutiae of the decision. On the flip side, I remember instances where I wanted to remain in the loop or even give direction. The employees that had the judgment to know when to run with it and when to bring me in, became my go-to people. I would aspire to be that person for you.”

(6) “I would never take a job that I was not interested in nor where I felt I would not make a long-term contribution to the job in which I have been hired.”

“To be blunt, I have made hires that were not the best match before and it was because I did not thoroughly ask about what the employee needed and so they just focused on what I needed throughout the interview. I am glad we are discussing this during the job interview and I appreciate that you are asking me about what I need in evaluating this match between us. I really do not want to be a bad hire within a firm. With that said, I am interested and very much able to do this job as offered. I feel it would benefit us both greatly if you hired me.

Like everything else about interviewing, it is about being genuine and motivated. No manager can make an employee be genuine or motivate the employee to perform. So that is what every job seeker needs to come to the interview with when discussing how they are under-, over- or perfectly qualified for the job.”

(7) I’m comfortable working for someone who may be younger than me and with less experience.”

“Everyone answers to someone else no matter where they are in their careers. For some, maybe it’s a board of directors or shareholders. I respect people for who they are and the positions they’ve been expected to handle to the best of their ability. I’m definitely a lifelong learner and am sensitive to opportunities to grow from the insights and wisdom I gain from others regardless of their age. At the end of the day, we all have certain obligations. I focus on the job at hand and work hard to find ways to improve myself and the people I work for each day.”

If you do not get moved to the next step after the overqualified job interview question, it is because the hiring manager was not convinced you would be a good employee match for them—whether they are right or wrong is not totally the issue.

The pressure is squarely on the job seeker to convey the message they are properly qualified for the job. If you show the hiring manager how they will benefit from hiring you, you increase your chances of getting moved on to the next level of interviewing.

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