Job Search at 50 – How to Overcome the Over-Qualified Objection

If you’re in the unfortunate situation of looking for a job when you’re over 50, every recruiter or hiring manager is likely telling you that you’re overqualified for the role. The truth is often hard to take and, rather than offend you, companies will tell you that you’re over-qualified.

What’s the Truth?

In my experience, the truth is that for 80% of workers over 50 years old they lack the energy or the drive to add any value to a company and are merely trying to get a few more years of salary under their belt until they retire.

They are often pretty rigid in their approach, struggle with technology and reluctant to report to a younger, less-qualified manager. There is a real chance that, as a hiring manager, if I hire someone over the age of 50, they will not be in the business in twelve months. The position I offer will be considered as an interim step until something bigger comes along that is more suitable to their needs and experience.

How to Overcome the Over-Qualified Objection

Below are four ways to help get around being considered over-qualified for a new role. Remember, getting a job when you’re over 50 is difficult, but it’s not impossible.

You may know plenty of people in your network who changed jobs in their 50s. However, you need to work at it. There is no point in simply taking the attitude of “I will wait for a job to come to me” as it’s likely that you will be waiting a while.

1. Email the Hiring Manager

If you’re looking for a new job at 50 years old, you need to make sure that you’re in contact with the Head of Department or the Hiring Manager of the company you’re applying to, and not just speaking with the HR Officer or recruiter.

Recruiters are highly unlikely to be able to help you given that they are looking for a particular profile that fits into their search criteria. If you hear “you’re over-qualified” from a recruiter, it’s likely you’re not, but it’s also likely that you don’t fit the profile that they’re looking for.

Speaking directly with the Hiring Manager or Department Head gives you the opportunity to see where you can add value to their business and not just focus on where you have worked. If you need help emailing the Hiring Manager, use my Contact The Hiring Manager Method to directly email the hiring manager.

2. Job Boards

Job boards don’t always work, but sometimes you have no choice, and it’s worth applying if you do it correctly. If you want to be successful, you need to target your skill set both on your CV and in your interview to precisely the skills that are required as per the job advert posting.

The hardest part of getting a job is getting to and through that first interview. If your CV contains precisely the skills the company is looking for, it’s likely that you will be chosen for interview. You also need to make sure that your CV contains relevant job titles.

Recruiters do not like candidates that are applying to take a massive step down, therefore if you’re interviewing for a Director role, make sure that you don’t have job titles like CEO or President on your CV as, whilst they are impressive, it’s likely that you will be seen as over-qualified and not get the job.

3. Make Yourself Seem Younger

Half of the over-qualified objection is that you’re 55 years old have 35 years of experience and companies are scared of this. However, there is no reason to tell a recruiter or Hiring Manager how exactly old you are.

This does not mean you should lie about your age, but it’s straightforward to knock off 15 years off your experience without anyone asking any questions. This can be done by not adding your date of birth to your CV, the dates when you went to school/University, or even the early part of your career.

Working out a candidates ball-park age is very easy given that candidates generally leave university at around 22-23 years old. If the dates are not on your CV, then I am not going to know how old you are and therefore cannot judge you on your age. You can take this step further by making sure that you look ten years younger by dying your hair, shaving your beard and wearing a smart, well-cut suit.

4. Dealing with the Over-Qualified Objection Right Away

Too many candidates that I have recruited have had interviews with Hiring Managers only to be told during the interview that they were over-qualified. What drives me crazy is that they did nothing about it. If you’re in an interview with the Hiring Manager who is going to make a decision, it’s because they are seriously thinking about hiring you.

Hiring Managers do not have time to waste and therefore will not interview you unless they are 99% sure you’re the right candidate for the job. If you’re in the interview and are being told that they think you’re over-qualified, deal with it immediately.

The best way to approach this is to take it on directly. You want the Hiring Manager to feel that you are there to support them and that they don’t need to be threatened by you. A great question to ask is, “How can I support you?” This shows that you’re willing to support them and gives you a great chance to explain where you can add value to their team.

Show Enthusiasm

Hiring Managers want to see your enthusiasm and how you plan to add real value to their team. When you’re talking about why you want the role, make sure that you use words such as “loyalty” and “team member,” which will help show that you’re excited about the opportunity and where you can add value to the existing team.

Other than enthusiasm, you need to play to your strengths, and your key strength is that your years of experience will help you get up to speed quickly with the tasks at hand. Whenever a manager hires a new member of the team, there is always a “settling in” period. You have years of experience, and therefore it’s going to be a much quicker process for you to get up to speed and thus add value to a Hiring Manager.

Why Are You Not Fighting for the Top Role?

Hiring Managers will often feel threatened by a candidate with 35 years of experience, however, for a candidate often there comes a time when they have stopped fighting for career progression and now want to concentrate on “Work/Life Balance.”

Hiring Managers understand this and will respect your honesty if you say something like, “At this point in my career, I have concluded that I enjoy working as part of a team rather than having the pressures of leading one and trying to develop it. I enjoy my work and want to add value to the team, but I also want to look at my work/life balance.”

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Nick Jones

My name Nick Jones, I am a professional Head-Hunter with over 20 years of experience working all over the world. I specialise in out-of-the-box job search strategies to get your CV directly to the hiring manager, thus skipping any ATS portals or recruiters who think they're important.

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