As a career coach, I’ve seen a recent rise in the number of job seekers who feel they’re getting passed over by employers because their overqualified. They usually tell me they feel their age is the issue. In reality, it’s something called “experience discrimination” that’s impacting them.
Millennials now make up 50+ percent of the workforce… and they don’t come with the “baggage” that years of experience can carry.
With over half the workforce being Millennials, many of which are now in their mid-twenties and early thirties, they have skills that rival those of the more experienced workforce, a/k/a the Baby Boomers. Not only are they cheaper, but they also don’t have years of experience that can translate into bad habits, fear of change, and a sense of workplace entitlement. Yes, with experience comes a the perceptions you could be challenging to work with. And that’s what’s really driving this problem.
Before you start hating on the Millennials for stealing all the good jobs, please be aware they will soon suffer the same fate. Globalization is making access to a highly educated, low cost workforce a reality. I just spoke with an employer last week who said, “J.T., why would I hire one PhD in America, when I can hire three for the same price in Europe?” For all the talk of the 1 percent in the U.S., the fact is, our entire country lives in the 1 percent compared to most of the world. As globalization increases, everyone in America should be thinking about how experience discrimination is going to impact their ability to stay employed and earn a living.
The secret to overcoming experience discrimination is to address the natural bias that comes with it. You must go into the situation assuming the hiring manager is worried about your ability to:
- be flexible
- respect authority
- learn new things
- connect on a personal level with all generations
- see the need to up-skill to stay relative to the market
The solution is to know how to answer behavioral questions in a way that gets hiring managers to look at you differently. It’s your responsibility to disrupt the bias in their heads during the interview. Sharing stories that convey you how you address the concerns above will send a message that you don’t have a chip on your shoulder and can be an asset to the team.
Let’s say a hiring manager sees you made 20 percent more in your last job than what his job pays. He says, “You’re overqualified. You’d leave this job as soon as you could make more money.” His fear is you feel you’re worth more than he’s paying. He needs to hear A) money isn’t your main driver, and B) you won’t act better-than on-the-job because you’ve been paid more previously. A good response might be:
“I can see how you might think that. But, two things actually matter more to me than salary. First, this company has an incredible reputation for being cutting-edge. I don’t want my skills getting outdated. To me, taking a pay cut to work someplace where I can make sure my skills are growing is like making an investment in myself. Plus, it saves me from having to take night classes or other training outside my normal work hours. Second, I love learning from other people. Especially, people who have grown up with an entirely different set of experiences, tools, and resources. I want to be in a company that’s approach to growth is fresh and fast-paced. Today, that means getting a job where my manager and peers are likely younger than me. I need them to teach me how to stay agile in my career.”
Sharing perspective in the interview that speaks to the hiring manager’s unspoken concerns is the secret to earning their trust, and hopefully, the job.
For anyone reading this article and thinking, “It’s not fair. I spent my entire career building my skills. Why can’t they see how valuable my years of experience are? They’re fools for not knowing what they’re getting.” The law of supply and demand doesn’t make exceptions. When quantity goes up, prices go down and competition increases. If you want the job, you need to deliver on price and value. What employers value is someone who meets their definitions of low-maintenance and exceeding expectations. It’s on you to deliver that message in the interview, or you’ll lose the job to someone less experienced, and yes, probably younger too.