Why the Overqualified Should Not Be Disqualified for the Job

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Paul Curry spent 20 years climbing the corporate ladder and finally became CEO of the construction company he worked at. But his days were long, his weekends were non-existent; in short, his life was his work. Then came the recession, his company subsequently folded, and he's now joined the ranks of millions of people who are unemployed.

At this point Curry decided to ask himself, "What is it that I really want to do?" After some soul-searching he realized he had a love for airplanes and aviation. So, he went to the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) website and filled out a job application for baggage handler. It's an entry-level position, at minimum-wage, but it was the only position listed at the time that did not require previous aviation experience.

What do you think the odds are that he'll get an answer? For that matter, what do you think the odds are that you'd be hired for a position that you are clearly overqualified for?

"That depends entirely on how you approach it, " says Maribeth Kuzmeski, author of 'And the Clients Went Wild! How Savvy Professionals Win All the Business They Want.'

"Highly-qualified workers show a better work ethic, stay, on average, longer, and as long as they are empowered, are actually happy workers. That's not just my opinion but the results of a study in the Harvard Business Review article The Myth of The Overqualified Worker (December 2010), where research is presented that substantiates that fact."

The article quotes a study by Greg Reilly of the University of Connecticut, Anthony Nyberg of the University of South Carolina, and Mark Maltarich of St. Ambrose University, who "looked at employees with above-average intelligence, working in jobs such as car washing and garbage collecting. In addition to achieving higher performance, these cognitively overqualified employees were less likely than others to quit. The researchers point out that many overqualified workers stay put for lifestyle reasons, such as the hours or the company's values."

Kuzmeski, who excels at teaching businesses and individuals how to create a successful relationship, sees no reason why hiring managers cannot connect with the right candidate for a job, regardless of the applicants depth of experience. She gave AOL Jobs her take on why overqualified candidates should NOT be counted out.

Q. From the job seeker's standpoint, how should they first approach that hiring manager?

A. If you are worried that your level of experience is going to play against you, be the first to bring it up, but do it tactfully. If you want to get the interview, you will have to do it BOLDLY in your cover letter. You can get out ahead of the problem by pointing out your qualifications and explaining how they will benefit you in the job.

Q. Are there specific words they can use that will immediately catch that person's eye; should they downgrade their qualifications,for example?

A. Be proud of your achievements. Don't try to dodge them. Just be sure you present them in a way that shows how the skills you have will benefit the company that is considering hiring you. For example, Curry could talk about recent aviation articles he reads or magazines he subscribes to.

Q. Why do these candidates make good employees?

A. Once hired, they require very little training. If a job candidate has been around the block a few times, his ability to adapt to new situations and responsibilities will be better also. And, once you have him onboard, it's likely that you'll find he is a great help to your other employees. Highly qualified candidates bring with them more life experience to pull from when challenging situations arise with clients or other coworkers. You will probably also find that you have added peace of mind knowing that someone who is highly skilled and experienced is hard at work for you."

Q. What could be the motivation for a hiring manager at Home Depot to consider a candidate with an MBA?

A. Naturally, the first instinct is they think these candidates are just applying because they are desperate for work. Sure, this does happen. For some people, a paycheck is a paycheck, and they are willing to do anything to get one. The best way to make the interviewer understand that you really want the job is to be honest with her or him. To survive an interview process, you have to be able to exhibit some passion for the position, and true passion is hard to fake."

Q. Do you mean if your hobby is carpentry or gardening, you should focus on that in the interview?

A. Yes, explain why you're applying for the job. Maybe it's a company you've always wanted to work for, and you see the position as a great opportunity to get your foot in the door. Or maybe you are interested in jump-starting a new career. If you have been unemployed for a while, tell them you are absolutely eager to get back to work. Then express two or three things that you find really interesting about this specific company or industry and a couple of goals you'll immediately set for yourself if hired.

The standard concern among hiring managers is that if they hire someone overqualified, that they have done themselves and their firms a disservice, because such an individual is sure to leave the company as soon as better opportunities open us (which they assume will be sooner rather than later). This is not always the case, and the MBA who applies for a job at your company doing carpentry work, might just turn out to be one of your best employees.

Next:The Ultimate Guide to Resumes

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