AARP Eye Center
Have you ever felt like — or been told — you were denied a job because the employer thought you were overqualified? Are you wondering how to overcome this type of discrimination?
You're not alone. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that among the respondents, one-third of those 50 and older who had looked for work during the past five years were told they were overqualified.
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Fortunately, you can take steps that might help you move past this label and land the job. The first is to understand why recruiters and hiring managers might have reservations about older workers whose qualifications may significantly exceed a job's minimum requirements. Once you've done that, you can develop a job-search strategy to overcome these hesitations.
When employers look at résumés of candidates with more experience than the job requires, some thoughts they may consider include:
- Does the applicant truly want this type of job or did he simply fail to read the job description fully?
- Was this person forced to seek a lower-level job because there were concerns about her abilities or personality?
- Given this candidate's background, he may expect a higher salary than what's budgeted for the position.
- This person has held management roles in the past. She might not handle reporting to others very well.
- If I hire this candidate, he could get bored with the job or leave me high and dry when a more suitable opportunity comes along. It's not worth the gamble.
Of course, sometimes, being told you're overqualified for a role is code for being considered too old for a job. Unfortunately, ageism is still rampant in the job market. Employers may question whether an older, more experienced employee will be able to handle the workload:
- Is this candidate up to speed with all the latest technology and skills required to perform the job or would we need to invest in additional training?
- Does this applicant have any health issues that will affect her ability to do the job?
- Will this person be OK taking direction from leaders who are younger — and arguably less experienced — than him?
You can address these concerns by developing a strong job-search strategy, which includes optimizing your résumé, writing an effective cover letter, leveraging your network and honing your interview skills.