What to say to overcome the “You are too experienced for the job” or “You are earning too much for this job” objections and biases

By Jack J. Kelly

 

Recently I wrote a piece, “Why won’t a company hire me if I offer more experience than they require?” and “Why won’t a firm meet with me if I earn more money, but will take less,” and received over 110,000 reads, comments, shares and likes (you like the little bragging I tossed in there?).  Clearly, this topic resonated with people, as it touched upon ageism and other subtle and not-so-subtle biases against certain classes of job candidates.

 

The article hit home with many readers, but some were quick to point out that they were hoping for some useful, practical, and actionable advice to tackle the problem of obtaining a job that pays less than they are/were earning, or at a lower-title level than they are now or were at before being laid off.  In hindsight, it was pretty provincial of me to just identify the problems and conveniently leave out any answers and strategies to overcome the inherent biases within the interview process.

 

There is an array of different reasons why a person is open to accepting a new job at a lower pay scale and level than they currently have or previously held.  It may be due to a career pivot- one step back to move forward in the future.  The trade-off of less compensation is less important than the opportunity to learn something new and take your career in a different and more desirable direction.

 

For others, it may be due to lack of other viable alternatives. A person could have been terminated and eager to get back to work.  Their job could have been relocated to another location and moving was not an option. A person may have been downsized in a declining industry with few remaining options available.

 

Since job seekers have different reasons for this type of move, the answers are not a “one-size fits all.”  Hopefully, it is a starting point to give you some smart, tactical ideas on what to say and you could then embellish upon them and craft your own individualized responses. Here are some responses to say in an interview to counteract and dispel the belief of a hiring manager that you are either too experienced, expensive or both for the position, and, therefore, not viewed as a viable candidate.

 

  1. Fortunately, I’ve been in this industry (replace with the specific area you are in) for a significant amount of time, and been fortunate enough to learn first-hand about what it takes to succeed, and would love to share that knowledge with you. In fact, that is a passion of mine- to help others succeed and advance in their careers.
  2. I am glad to discuss my background; could I please start with sharing my strengths and abilities and how I’ve been able to remain on the cutting edge of my career, including – fill in interesting new developments within your field to illustrate that not only are you up-to-date, but ahead of the curve.  Include any knowledge or hands-on involvement with new technologies used within your space and commonly deployed in business settings.
  3. I have the drive, ambition, determination, interpersonal skills, plus an extensive background in this space, so that I could quickly add value and help you and the team meet and exceed your goals.
  4. With my extensive experience, I am able to offer lessons that I have learned at other companies, as to what works and what fails to work. This hands-on experience could be invaluable when your team of less-experienced professionals confront a crisis situation that they have not seen before.
  5. In fact, I would be happy to serve as the go-to person for your employees when they have questions and you are busy. I could offer them a calm, cool, collected, reassuring, reliable, and comforting presence.
  6. I would consider myself not overqualified, but sufficiently qualified -with a lot that I still need to learn.
  7. Hopefully, the biggest problem you will have is that you found someone who could do the job better than you previously expected at a reasonable price.
  8. If you are still unsure, here is a suggestion: Why don’t I start out on a three-month trial basis?  You will be able to watch and evaluate how I can perform. If you are not happy, then there will be no hard feelings. We will both benefit. You had some help while waiting for the perfect person  and I was fortunate to have new experiences and meet wonderful people.
  9. If you are concerned that I may leave for a better job, I would be happy to sign an agreement, as part of the offer letter, indicating that I promise to stay for, at least, a certain duration of your choosing.
  10. I am highly attracted to this position, love the people I interviewed with, the company, and would be more than happy to commit for the long term.
  11. I am looking for a long-term home; somewhere where I can plant roots and grow my career.
  12. While a grandiose title and higher compensation is nice, it is more important to know that I have a home (by that, I mean a work-home and not your real house-home).
  13. My personal and financial situation is such that I can afford to do a job that I love and enjoy, even if it pays less than I earned in the past or is at a somewhat lower level than where I am now.
  14. It is more important to me to be happy and engaged in my work, respect the company, and appreciate my coworkers and manager than receiving a little extra in pay.
  15. After taxes, the lesser salary is not that much of a big difference.
  16. A decrease in compensation will not alter my life, but accepting a job that I don’t love and just doing it for the money will absolutely adversely impact my life.
  17. I recognize that it may feel like it could be awkward to have a more experienced person reporting into someone with less experience; however, I believe that I could always learn and grow from someone regardless of their age.
  18. What is most important to me is to work at something that I am passionate about. That is what gets me up and out of bed in the morning. The title and more pay are secondary.
  19. I don’t possess a big ego and will happily take directions from anyone, regardless of their age, to help contribute to the team and work toward achieving our goals and objectives.
  20. I am committed to changing the trajectory of my career no matter what the financial ramifications or loss of so-called status.
  21. A lower compensation and title is a small price to pay for opportunity to do what I love and am passionate about.
  22. If I don’t make this move now, time will quickly pass. I’ll end up doing what I have always been doing and will regret not trying to actively pursue a career opportunity that I really want and truly desire.
  23. Life is too short to settle on a job and career that is unfulfilling. A smaller paycheck and lesser title are insignificant in the long term.
  24. I am confident in my abilities and believe that, in the long term, I will succeed in this job and within your company. After I prove myself over the course of time, I believe that the remuneration and promotions will come.
  25. I am less worried about the here-and-now compared to where I can be in the future by obtaining this great job.
  26. Trust me, I will give it my all and make you proud and happy that you gave me the chance.
  27. The only thing I ask to provide me with is the opportunity to prove myself.  I promise, I won’t let you down and you won’t regret the decision.

 

In addition to what you say, pay close attention to how you say it. You want to come across as positive, dynamic, motivated, energetic, ready and able to take on all the challenges thrown at you. Also, you want to present yourself in the attire, attitude, vocal tones, and body language of someone who is, and will continue to be, successful.

 

I am not naïve and recognize that this is easier said than done. If you are going for a job that pays less than you are earning or at a lower-title level, the chances are that something interrupted your career’s forward momentum. The odds are that you are somewhat discouraged and maybe lost a little confidence in yourself. It’s okay, if that is the case.  Just make sure that the interviewers and everyone else do not pick up on it. It is too easy to let your discouragement and maybe a little resentment about what may have happened in your last job spill out.  While the interviewer may seem sensitive to your downsizing or the relocation of your job, they will most likely pass if you come across as browbeaten.

 

You can say all the right things, but if you come across as a defeatist, it won’t work.  What you need to do is spend hours practicing your interviewing skills and elevator pitch.  I’m not going to pretend that it will be easy to shake off the bad feelings, but you must work on placing it aside, at least while you are interviewing.

 

It is a little easier if you are taking a lower-paying or lesser-title as a career pivot without the attendant baggage of coming out of a bad situation.

 

I hope that these suggestions help.

 

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