How to Answer an Interview Question Suggesting You're Overqualified

There are always trick questions in an interview and one of the more challenging ones is being asked: "Don't you think you're overqualified for this job? I'm concerned you might be." The manner in which you respond to this question is very important because it will demonstrate whether or not you can handle what may effectively be a "demotion". Here are some suggestions to see you through.


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    Think carefully about your reasons for contemplating any position that is less than what your qualifications could get you. If you haven't already thought it through, it may be a surprise question that unhinges you. For the most part, however, it'll be clear to you that you're interviewing for a job that you're overqualified for and you should already have a good sense of the reasons as to why you're taking it. If you're not clear that this is a good decision, you may feel a sense of resentment or need to walk sooner rather than later, and that's what will worry your interviewer. Some of the personal reasons might include (these are for your own rationalizing, not necessarily for the interviewer):
    • You've been out of the workforce for a while and feel you need to regain your skills and strengths gradually.
    • You hated being in management and want to return to more involved work that doesn't require looking out for other people's stuff ups and needs.
    • It's a dream job or something you've always wanted to try to your qualifications are neither here nor there.
    • Any job will do in the current economic climate!
    • You like the workplace culture better than somewhere else.
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    Realize that the interviewer is most likely asking this question because he or she has already reached a conclusion that you're overqualified. In this case, you'll need to do some persuading to overcome their prejudice.
    • The interviewer is genuinely worried that you're going to be taking this job as a stand-by position until something better comes along, or that you may ruffle feathers by trying to make the role more than it is. If you end up being disappointed or unable to sit happily within the hierarchy, you pose a risk to the organization from the interviewer's perspective.
    • Treat this as an opportunity to explain why this job isn't "beneath" you and why it is a good role for you.
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    Address the question with good reasons. While your personal reasons as listed above may be motivating you, the directness of some of those reasons won't be appropriate to give as reasons to the interviewer, who isn't keen to employ Mr or Ms Desperate. While you'll need to do the hard thinking on this in relation to the position and your personal motivations, consider the following response to give you an idea of how to answer this question from your own point of view:
    • "I realize I was a senior manager in my last role and I learned a great deal from it and will continue to apply that learning. However, I've decided that I am best suited to dealing direct with the creative work/clients/writing/inventing, etc. and I am at my strongest when delivering in this way. For me, this isn't about stepping down the ladder, it's about ensuring that I am doing what I am best suited to do, which ensures that I feel fulfilled and that I do the best by my job. I feel that my previous role has enabled me to have a greater understanding of the bigger picture and how everything works but I know I'm happier doing this work direct."
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    Feel free to question the interviewer's assumption if you don't believe it's true. But be polite; this isn't a time for being antagonistic and comparing your qualifications with a whole raft of other people or positions. Just keep it simple and state that you're not really sure why the interviewer believes this to be the case and ask for clarification. Take your cue from their answers.
    • If, after clarification and discussion with the interviewer, you are genuinely concerned that this role isn't for you, don't be shy in saying so. Thank them for their time and be polite. Leave a good impression because you never know when they might remember you or when you might need to reapply at the same company again.


  • Many interviewers are more understanding about parents returning to the workforce after a gap. While it is fine to use this as a reason for taking on the lesser role, don't belittle yourself or your abilities; the employer doesn't want to employ someone with self-esteem issues who might need counseling or who could fall apart under pressure. Focus on the highlights of your years out of work, such as learning to juggle, to thrive under pressure, and any volunteer and from-home work that you undertook.


  • Sometimes work colleagues pressure you to seek a promotion against your better judgment. When you get the job and hate it, demotion seems like manna from heaven. Handle this very carefully though; don't blame your colleagues as it shows you cannot think for yourself and determine your own path (yes, you know it was about peer pressure and ego stroking!).

Things You'll Need

  • Contemplation of why you're taking on the "step-down" job before you attend the interview - write down the reasons and memorize them
  • Usual neat interview attire

Article Info

Categories: Interview Skills