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While most people feel anxiety about applying for jobs they’re not qualified for, the opposite problem — being overqualified — can be just as vexing. The hiring manager is going to have all sorts of questions about why you’re looking to take a step backward, and these aren’t always the easiest things to explain.

In a great U.S. News & World Report post titled “How to Respond to ‘Aren’t You Overqualified?’” writer and Career Valet founder Marcelle Yeager shares some excellent tips for answering tough questions you’re likely to face.

The first one is perhaps the most obvious: “Why did you apply for a job you’re overqualified for?” The key here, Yeager says, is to explain that you’re unsatisfied with your current career path, and that you see this opportunity as a logical next step. You don’t have to go into a lot of personal detail, but you want to make it clear you’ve given the matter a lot of thought.

From there, if you’ve worked as a supervisor in the past, the hiring manager might ask if you’re OK with no longer managing people. If managing others isn’t for you, Yeager says, you’ll want to explain why that’s the case. It’s “perfectly acceptable,” she says, to prefer taking a “backseat position.” Management isn’t for everyone. It could also be that you’re switching careers and interested in learning from those who’ve been on the job longer.

Naturally, the question of money will come up at some point, and the hiring manger might ask whether you’re willing to take a pay cut. Here, Yeager says, you’ll want to say “yes” and explain that, at the current juncture, money isn’t your primary driver. You’re interested in career fulfillment, with the one caveat that you’d hope to be considered for a raise after the appropriate length of time.

In addition to working for less money, you might find yourself working under a manager who’s younger than you. If the hiring manager asks whether this would pose a problem, say “no,” and explain why anyone with experience in the field — regardless of age — is likely to help you grow as an employee. If applicable, mention other times you’ve worked with bosses younger than you.

Lastly, Yeager says, you might hear this one: “Why should we choose you over a candidate right out of school?” While you might be tempted to talk trash about college grads and wax philosophical about what you perceive to be the shortcomings of the millennial generation, the smarter strategy, Yeager says, is to keep the focus on you and emphasize your skills and talents. What can you bring to the table that others can’t? Make your case without badmouthing others, and you just might get the gig.


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