9 Ways to Convince a Startup Owner You’re Not Overqualified for a Role

When you’re planning on joining a startup, you need to consider how you fit into the organization. For the most part, the employer will look at your qualifications and experience to determine whether you’d be a good fit. For those who are a long way up the qualifications ladder, taking a pay cut or accepting a lesser position might be necessary to work at such a company. 

However, even cutting back expectations like these isn’t always enough to persuade business owners to hire you. To help, 10 members of Young Entrepreneur Council discuss how an overqualified candidate could convince a startup owner to hire them, even though their qualifications are far above the company demands for a particular position.

Q: For someone who wants to work at a startup even if it means a pay cut or a lesser title, what’s one thing these types of candidates can do to convince you they are not overqualified for the position?

Here are their top suggestions.

1. Show How You Will Mitigate Risk

They need to prepare in a way to show not just their ROI, but also how they’re going to mitigate my risk. Due to their qualifications, as a hiring manager I am going to be concerned this person is going to jump ship as soon as a more lucrative offer comes in. If I can understand the “why” and the research done in how they’ve deduced that this is their home, then I am more apt to take the risk. – David Hern, Sofer Advisors

2. Show a Desire to Learn

Show a desire to learn and work on the weaknesses you have. All experienced professionals have weak areas, despite their specialization. For individuals thinking of working at a startup, I look for their ability to recognize and accept those gaps and show a willingness to learn and improve on those areas. – Asim Rais Siddiqui, Tekrevol

3. Focus on Relevant Credentials

Focus on the directly relevant credentials and experiences. If you’re applying for a marketing job but highlight your programming skills on your resume or discuss your success as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) entrepreneur, you’re going to raise red flags during screening. Instead, stick to the stuff that the employer is looking for, and only those things. Wait until after you get the job to discuss your side skills. – Tyler Gallagher, Regal Assets

4. Take Some of Your Pay in Equity

If you’re worried about seeming “overqualified” but you’re passionate about working at a startup, offer to take some of your pay in equity. This will show the leadership team you’re serious and that you’re willing to tie your success to the success of the company. If they’re still wary you might not have the day-to-day skills they need, offer to do a brainstorm or work session with their team. – Cooper Harris, Klickly

5. Be Willing to Get Your Hands Dirty

My primary fear with hiring someone who is overqualified would be the risk that they thought some work was “beneath” them, or an overreliance on their team to actually execute on decisions. Anyone who showed a willingness to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty would definitely convince me that they’re not overqualified for the position. – Ashwin Sreenivas, Helia

6. Explain Your Work History

One way to show that you’re not overqualified is to explain your work history. If, for instance, your former position wasn’t as glamorous as it sounded, let the interviewer know that you didn’t get to fully explore the role and want more experience before you’re comfortable in that position again. – John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC

7. Reinforce Your Dedication to the Role

Companies don’t usually prefer overqualified candidates because they’re afraid they’ll leave the second they find a better opportunity, such as higher pay. But a serious candidate, even if they are overqualified, will reassure the recruiter that they’re committed to this position and the company. They’ll reinforce their dedication to the position if they’re serious. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

8. Show You Have a Known Career Gap

Show that you have a known gap in your career that you wish to fill with that company. Any employer would love to know that you as the candidate have career goals that align with the position you are applying for. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

9. Emphasize the Job Itself

To prove to recruiters that you’re serious about the position you’re applying for, emphasize the job itself. Make points about why you want it, what that specific company is for you, etc. Setting yourself apart from other candidates, even though you may be overqualified, is sure to grab the recruiter’s attention and get you taken more seriously as a candidate. – Jared Atchison, WPForms

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.

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