By Kathleen Sullivan
If you are over 40 and looking for a job, one response from hiring managers that can stop you in your tracks is: "You're overqualified." If you are willing to take the job, why would the hiring manager have reservations? Hiring managers have valid concerns. Hiring managers face many challenges in making a new hire: hurdles in having a job requisition approved, limited budgets for salaries and benefits, and pressure from senior management to hire the right person who can be a productive member of the organization immediately. Many hiring managers have learned that job seekers over 40, especially those who have been in management positions, want the same title, compensation, and prestige they held in prior positions. If these criteria are not met, the candidate who is over 40 may take the job, but then quickly become unhappy and ask for a better title or pay, or continue to look for a job outside the organization. Consequently, the hiring manager has made a bad decision, which can have repercussions for his own career.
How to overcome the hiring manager's objections and land a job:
Adapt to the current work environment: Over the past 10 years, many companies have become leaner and flatter by downsizing or outsourcing part or all of their workforces. There is less demand for new hires, particularly for managers. Employers want a just-in-time workforce, organized by project based roles, that has a contingent relationship with the employer. They also want the most value for their money. Job seekers over 40 who are looking for a specific title and high salary do not fit in with this new model.
To be successful, you must become savvy about the current world of work: learn about growing industries and new business trends. Target those industries and companies and research their current products and services, how they are delivered, and how their organizations and workforces are structured. Then, position yourself as someone who can contribute to their business initiatives and who can adapt to their organizational structure, rather than someone who is locked into a title or salary.
Set new career goals that reflect the realities of the workplace: If you are over 40 and looking for a job, re-assess your career goals. Open yourself to the possibilities of building a new relationship with an employer and defining your role and compensation differently. Speak with hiring managers and learn about the knowledge and experience that is valuable to them. Sell yourself to the hiring manager based on their needs, not on the title and salary you want.
Quantify what you can do for them: make or save money, meet project deadlines and goals, train and motivate staff, and increase customer satisfaction. Once you can prove the value that you would bring to a hiring manager, you will become a qualified candidate rather than disqualified. Often, when you demonstrate your value, the role and compensation you are offered may be more in line with what you are seeking.
What trade-offs can you accept in the next step in your career? Is the opportunity to work on a dynamic team on a cutting edge project worth forfeiting a title or part of a paycheck? Your ability to adapt and redefine your career based on new realities is critical. Rewards in professional growth and job satisfaction can be your new measure of success.