We are often asked by women returners how to respond to the comment from recruiters that they are “overqualified” or “too good” for a position. In this situation, it is worth asking yourself whether you are aiming too low because your confidence is diminished after a long time out of the workforce. However, if you have purposefully targeted the role as being an appealing re-entry point, maybe wanting a less pressured role to better fit with the rest of your life, it is very frustrating to receive this feedback and hard to respond in a way that positively affirms your motivation.
When thinking how to answer, it is helpful to put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. Recruiters often make this comment when they are concerned that you will quickly become bored with the role and so will either under-perform or not stay for the long term. They might not understand that you have deliberately applied for a role that is less senior than the role you held before your career break because you are coming back to the workforce with a new perspective on your career.
Understanding the interviewer’s viewpoint, your response needs to include the following elements of reassurance:
- you have thought through these issues
- you have specifically targeted this level of seniority (explaining briefly why)
- you are committed to doing the best you can in the role
- as with any other new hire, you hope that your career will progress over time
Carol Fishman Cohen, who co-founded and runs iRelaunch, our closest US equivalent, provides some recommended wording which you might like to use if you are targeting a lower-level role to provide more balance in your life than your past positions:
One of my top priorities is to deliver excellent results to my employer, while also managing the rest of my life outside work. So while it might look to you like I am overqualified for this position, this level is exactly where I want to be in my current life stage, and I intentionally sought it out. I feel confidence I can deliver excellent results to you at this level of seniority. (You’re Overqualified! Carol Fishman Cohen)
If you think that this might be an issue with your application, it is worth addressing upfront, by including your explanation in your cover letter. You will then hopefully have the opportunity to reinforce your message at interview.
Author: Katerina Gould, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.