Ask Matt: Did I get turned down because I'm over 50?

  • Article by: MATT KRUMRIE
  • Updated: January 27, 2014 - 9:02 AM

Dear Matt: The recruiter said I was perfect for the job — so why, 10 minutes into the interview, did the hiring manager say “I appreciate your interest in the position, but I think you’re overqualified,” and walk me out? This has happened before. Is it my age? If so, what can I do about it?

Matt says: Saying you’re overqualified is often code for something else, says Catherine Byers Breet, a Twin Cities career coach and author of The Job Hunt Coaching System (arbez.com/what-we-do). “It’s a safe and easy way for companies to turn people down gently,” says Byers Breet, who is putting on The Job Search Over 50 (arbez.com/job-search-over-50), a free seminar that discusses these issues and more on Tuesday Feb. 4 from 7:30 a.m. — 9 a.m. at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan.

Here is what employers really worry about with older workers, but will never admit, says Byers Breet:

• You might get bored and quit, or are counting the days to retirement.

• You might try to change everything to how you used to do it in the past.

• You’re a threat to take the job of the person doing the hiring because of your knowledge and expertise.

• Assuming you want more money than the position pays.

• Low energy, no enthusiasm, won’t deliver as much as someone younger.

• Won’t know how to use new technology, nor be willing to learn.

• Poor health, will miss a lot of work.

How do you overcome these stereotypes? Start by dressing and grooming for success. Then learn everything you can about this position. Show up early. Show excitement. And if the interviewer starts to reference you being overqualified (older), respond by saying something like: “I understand that I bring more to the table than what you’re looking for, however I’m at a stage in my career where I don’t want to lead huge teams anymore. I know where I’m at my best. It’s not leading huge teams of people and managing P&Ls. It’s solving problems. If you hire me, I’ll make your headaches go away. That is what I love to do, and it’s why I am so interested in working for you.”

Or: “I’m sure you’re wondering ‘Why on earth would this guy want this job? He could do so much more!’ I’ll tell you why. I don’t want the big title anymore. I’m at my best when I’m part of a team, not leading one. You’re losing customers and I know how to fix that; I just helped my last employer increase client retention by 13 percent in just six months. I don’t have all the answers, but I can assure you I’ll bring a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to the job and do whatever it takes to hit your goals this year.”

Convince them you are the one. It works. “I see ‘old’ people get jobs over younger people all the time,” says Byers Breet.

Contact Matt at jobslink@startribune.com.

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