I recently interviewed for two positions with job titles and salaries that were not necessarily at the same level as my last full time job, but seemed like the perfect roles for me at this point in my life.
I was eager to join both organizations due to the nature of their businesses and the responsibilities of the positions.
In my follow-up letter to one, I explained that the role was the ideal opportunity for me and I really wanted to work with the team I met. “On paper it might seem that I’m overqualified or perhaps a temporary role isn’t the best career move at my stage in life, but when I first saw the listing I was immediately drawn to it and wanted to apply.”
For the other, I went above and beyond to prepare a presentation before the phone screening with the talent advisor. During the call my presentation was shared with the hiring manager who apparently responded, “OMG get her in for an interview ASAP.” I was thrilled!
That excitement quickly turned to fear as I was incredibly nervous before the second interview. I added 8 more slides to my presentation in hopes of impressing them even more. In my thank you message I wrote:
“I’m looking to join a company where I imagine myself staying until I retire, in whatever role I can do my best work. I’m a loyal and creative person and when I commit to something, I’m in it for the long haul. This is one reason why I’m a marathoner and I spent the majority of my adult life in just two positions.
I prepared a presentation before meeting anyone in your company because I wanted to demonstrate my commitment to the interview process and to show my next-level interest in this specific role. I think it’s crucial to find a candidate who’s willing to efficiently size up your current efforts as well as make recommendations. I began that process, but I have so much more I’d like to share. I’d love the opportunity to discuss my thoughts with your team and to learn more about the decision making process for current initiatives as well as your larger marketing plans for the future.”
Hours later I was rejected, apparently because I was overqualified.
“At this time, our team feels your qualifications are outside of the parameters of the role. We do not feel it is a good long-term strategy to offer you less than you are worth.”
I know my worth. I know what I want. And when I believe I have value to add to a team, I go for it.
I would never invest so much time in an application if I didn’t feel it was an opportunity I wanted to pursue.
I was at Learning Without Tears for over 22 years. When I left I wasn’t a Senior Manager or a Vice President, I was in a mid-level Specialist/Coordinator role. Those upper management and executive titles have never been my career goal.
I want to do something I’m good at, that I enjoy, and with people whom I like. I’m a “rockstar” not a “superstar” (as described in “Radical Candor”.) I’ve never found it desireable or necessary to climb the corporate ladder. All I want is a role where I can be productive and creative, where I work with people who accept, value, and compliment my true self to achieve a greater good as a team. To me, that is true success.
I never thought that putting so much care and consideration into an initial interview might disqualify me, but that’s who I am and it’s important for me to share what I have to offer. I am intense. Maybe in a way that not everyone sees as a positive, but it’s who I am.
After this latest rejection I searched “overqualified” and found this relevant article:
“What Employers Really Mean When They Say You’re Overqualified (And What You Can Do About It)”
Of course it terrified me to see this explanation of what employers are thinking when they say you’re overqualified:
You’re too old
“Yep… this is the ugly one. Some employers maintain negative stereotypes about older candidates. The law prevents them from discriminating based on age, so “overqualified” is a useful proxy to avoid explicitly addressing the age issue in hiring.“
I’m a runner and race results live forever. I will never be able to hide my age and I wouldn’t want to because I’m proud to be 51.
Luckily, without even knowing it, I followed their advice to address being “overqualified”:
1. Explain your situation
2. Show your enthusiasm for the job
3. Be clear (and reasonable) about your salary expectations
4. Explain how your extra skills will help the employer
5. Network, network, network
I’ll never know if they really thought I was overqualified or if it was an acceptable excuse for some other reason. If I bombed the interview and said something that turned them off, I’d really like to know, but I’ve learned after 100 interviews that no one will really give you the feedback you need even if you ask for it.
Rejection stings no matter what. It’s especially painful when you make an extra effort and expose your own vulnerabilities by being honest.
I know my worth and it’s not dependent on being hired although sometimes it’s hard to believe that.
I’ve only cried a few times during my job search. There have been just a handful of jobs that I felt absolutely perfect for and was extra eager to make a good impression.
It’s terrifying to to be brave enough to communicate what you want with the founder of a business or to share extremely personal details about the difficulties of the unemployment process and what lead to it to human resources.
Being vulnerable is risky, but it’s in my nature. I’d much rather overshare and leave everything on the table than have regrets that I didn’t do everything I could to get the outcome I wanted.
I was inconsolable with tears when I received the email rejecting me for being overqualified, telling me it wasn’t a good long-term strategy to offer me less than I’m worth.
When I applied for the position I was required to put a salary expectation. The amount I shared was actually less than the starting salary given in the initial phone screening. How then could they offer me less than I decided I’m worth?
My desires and expectations about what role I need and the compensation I want have become clearer over the past two years. I’ve learned that money isn’t everything and that I must believe in what I’m doing. Titles have never mattered to me, but success does. There’s no one direct road to accomplishing your goals. It’s the journey and the relationships that matter.
I think I’m an amazing person with so much to offer no matter the position or the company. I honestly believe the next manager who hires me will have no regrets because I will only accept a role that feels right for me and will lead to success for everyone involved.