How To Get Hired If You Are Overqualified Or Don’t Need The Money

Overqualified For A Job, Occupy Wall Street

This post will teach you how to get hired if you are overqualified. Being overqualified for a job you want is frustrating. You want to get paid for your experience and expertise, yet you also don't want to lose the job because you enjoy what you do!

Convincing your spouse to allow you to go on a trip with friends to Vegas is easy compared to convincing an employer to hire you if you're overqualified, too old, or don't need the money. Finding any type of work is like dating. The older you get, unfortunately, the harder it seems to find a match.

But just like dating, finding that perfect someone is often hilarious, frustrating, expensive, and sometimes painful. Let me share with you a short story about one company I met with a while ago where I failed to find a connection.

How To Get Hired If You Are Overqualified

Learning how to get hired if you are qualified and don't need the money is tough! Having money or previous success can ironically put you at a disadvantage when looking for a new job. Let me explain with my situation.

Part of my value proposition as a content marketing consultant for startups is that I've built a brand from the ground up with practically zero spend and zero public fan fare.

My great challenge since the beginning was to see if my writing alone could take Financial Samurai to the promised land. Further, by being a minority and a private figure, the challenge would be extra hard.

After more than 12 years and 15,000+ hours of finger flexing on my own sites, I understand how to help companies build their content marketing efforts, rank well in SEO, engage an audience, build a community, and generate leads if they're willing to stick things through for a couple years.

The Chief Content Officer role is something to look out for. Millions of dollars are at stake for nascent businesses that want to survive and grow, or established organizations that want to pivot their image.

I found a fantastic company looking for a “Director Of Content & SEO” down in Silicon Valley on AngelList during the holidays. They kindly responded, and I drove down to Santa Clara to see them for two hours.

I was peppered with a ton of questions during the interview and over e-mail, and I answered all of them thoroughly. But when I asked for feedback or how they would approach the questions they gave me, things went radio silent from one interviewer.

I suspect he didn't have the time to respond (even though I wrote back 700 word responses that took an hour), or simply didn't have a proper way to respond because he didn't know. Ignoring someone is a GREAT way to save time, but it is off-putting.

The Follow Up Interview

About a month had passed when the CEO wanted to meet me again for a follow up. We sat down in one of those laptop-filled coffee shops in downtown SF to chat. He's a nice guy with a lot of energy. Here was his response in a nutshell:

“I like your background and I think you'd add a lot of value, but I've got three concerns. 1) Why would you want to work for us if you have such a good thing going already with Financial Samurai? 2) Are you sure you'll be able to work hard? We're a lean startup and will be working on weekends and all hours of the day. 3) Can we provide you the compensation required to make you happy so you don't leave after a year”

All of the CEO's concerns were valid. In fact, about 45% of you answered, “No. What's the point of working so much more if you have a livable passive income stream and business income already. Consulting for one company for 25 hours a week is enough.” in my survey on whether I should take up new freelance opportunities or seek full-time employment.

Here are my answers to his questions:

Why would you want to work for us if you have such a good thing going already with Financial Samurai?

1) I believe in what your company is trying to do, and I believe my skill-set can help your company get there. The greatest thrill I get is building something from nothing to something significant. Money is important, but it is not my primary motivation.

Working with good people who can make a difference in society, and address a pain point is very exciting to me. Financial Samurai is something I'm proud of that I will likely always keep. It's like my personal journal that I write in during off work hours.

Are you sure you'll be able to work hard? We're a lean startup and will be working one weekends and all hours of the day?

2) From 1999 – 2000, I got up by 4:45am to get to work by 5:30am every day. I'd work until 7:30pm on average, and often times until 9pm. From 2000 – 2012, I got up before 6am every day to get to work by 6:30am or be online by 6:30am because that's when the stock market opens on the West Coast. I'd often stay until 6pm and take clients out afterward for several hours.

Since 2012, I've continued to get up around 5:30 and work for an hour or two before working another 9-10 hours at my consulting clients' respective offices. I then come back and work at least another couple hours online. I'm not afraid of hard work. I will work for as long as it takes to get things done and produce results. Working in banking was no walk in the park.

Can we provide you the compensation required to make you happy, and not leave after a year?

3) I applied to the job based on the salary and equity metrics you listed on AngelList, so I am interested in the compensation you listed. After the first meeting, you mentioned that you were also flexible on compensation.

I've had a track record for company loyalty, having been at my previous full-time employer for 11 years. I've also spent over a year consulting for one client already. I think in five-year blocks, and don't go all-in unless I really believe in the company and the role.

Could Not Get Hired

Our meeting lasted for an hour, and I went into much more detail explaining myself in a conversational manner. The CEO just couldn't get over the fact that I'd ever want to go back to work full-time due to the income I've been able to generate on my own. It didn't matter what I said, he just couldn't believe it.

In fact, by the end of the conversation, he convinced me that I would be crazy to take the role. The most they could pay would be maybe $135,000 along with 0.5% equity.

And the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with the CEO! Why would I dedicate ~50 hours of my life working for a company that paid me less than my passive income stream alone?

Sure, I liked their business model, but couldn't I spend that 50 hours building Financial Samurai and other websites into something greater?

Even if the company sold for $200 million dollars vs. the average exit valuation of $40 million for Y Combinator companies after 10 years, I'd still only pull down maybe $1 million gross. That is not inspiring given the years of below market pay.

A Change Of Heart

When I got home that evening, I thanked the CEO over e-mail and told him that he was right. The role was not the right fit for me. He thanked me for the note, and promised to keep in touch. I think the company will do well, and it's too bad we couldn't connect. But like I mentioned, finding the right fit takes time and effort. So I continued my journey.

I've NEVER had someone question my work ethic, especially if they knew I came from banking, because everybody knows that people in banking often work 70 hour+ weeks and get their face kicked in all the time. The pressure to produce is immense.

If you don't produce, you get shown the door, hence my mindset for writing, If You Produce Nothing How Do You Expect To Make Any Money?

I've also never had anybody question my loyalty before either because 11 years is a damn long time to work at one firm in this day and age where three years seems to be more the norm.

I looked at the resumes of the founder and people I met, and none of them stayed at their previous positions for more than three years so I was flummoxed by their questioning of my dedication. Was this a case of, Do as I say, not as I do?

They couldn't possibly understand my situation because to them, it's inconceivable that someone would primarily focus on an opportunity for the experience, knowledge, and journey.

It's Not About The Money

I'm going to say this as clearly as I can: Once you've accumulated “enough,” it's not about the money!

If it was about the money, I wouldn't have left a high-paying job on Wall Street to make hardly anything as a writer. If it was about the money, I wouldn't have paid myself nothing for years. If it was about the money, I wouldn't have decided to consult in the first place because consulting income is much lower than my business income.

All I want is to be paid a “fair market wage” based on the value I can provide. I don't want more money, or less money than deserved. I certainly don't ever want to feel cheated either.

I've done plenty of financial analysis on working for a startup, and I believe working for a startup will probably make you poorer, than richer.

You can also sell your startup for millions and still not be a millionaire. And I just don't know how many employees really understand that they could get screwed, despite owning stock options (watch out for those 2X liquidity preferences).

Heck, in the latest example, a company named Baremetrics screwed its employees while its founder walked away with millions. The founder got a $800,000 gift from his VCs and still didn't share the money with his employees!

It's an incredible feeling to work with a group of folks you get along with. To build something together and watch it grow in the world is amazing. To grab some beers after work and commiserate is just fun.

My main tip for those who've accumulated enough, but who still want to be an active part of society is this:

Just like in the Stealth Wealth Movement, DO NOT overemphasize your successes. Instead, calibrate your successes to a range that is conceivable to your prospective employer. You want to fit in, but stand out just a little bit so that they hire you. Once they hire you, consistently underpromise and overdeliver.

My biggest error was being too proud of the work I've done online. It helped me get multiple interviews, but it lead people to think, “What the heck are you thinking? If I were you, I'd be sitting on a beach somewhere drinking a Mai Tai!” as one fellow colleague told me the other day.

Instead of highlighting Financial Samurai's success, I should have highlighted a smaller site I've built instead.

As I update this post in 2021, I look back and am thankful for not joining YourMechanic, the startup that wouldn't offer me a job. I would have been miserable trying to build their content marketing efforts. The company is still not public and still hasn't been acquired.

More Tips On How To Get Hired If You Are Overqualified

1) Dumb down your resume. Instead of making your resume look like you could be the next President of The United States, dumb it down so that you're more like a Joe Biden or a Senator Kerry instead. You don't want your potentially younger and less experienced employer think that you'll want to run the company one day or leave soon after joining.

2) Remove your graduation dates from your resume. Age discrimination is real folks! Why else do employees have to attend mandatory “age discrimination” and “sexual harassment” training? It is not kosher to ask someone's age, sexual preference, and personal relationship status. By removing your graduation date, and curating your resume to fit your accomplishments better, you stand a better chance of blending in.

3) Pretend like you don't know as much as you do. Downplaying your knowledge and intelligence is the key to my post, Are You Smart Enough To Act Dumb Enough To Get Ahead. You want to demonstrate your competence in the interview process, but you don't want to seem so knowledgable and intelligent that your employer views you as a threat. Your goal is to get the job and then adapt.

People will think you are crazy if you want to continue working when you don't need to. Only when people reach financial independence will they realize the journey is the most enjoyable part of it all! It's up to you to paint a different picture.

Recommendation For Leaving A Job

If you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy, I recommend negotiating a severance instead of quitting.

If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training.

Since you got laid off, you're also eligible for up to 27 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.

Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, on how to negotiate a severance.

I first published the book in 2012 and have recently expanded it to over 200 pages with new resources, strategies, and additional case studies thanks to tremendous reader feedback.

Add to Cart

Business Recommendation

If they think you're overqualified, screw them! Take matters into your own hand and start your own business online! It used to cost a fortune and a lot of employees to start your business.

Now you can start it for next to nothing with Bluehost. Brand yourself online, connect with like-minded people, find new consulting gigs, and potentially make a good amount of income online one day by selling your product or recommending other great products.

Not a day goes by where I'm not thankful for starting Financial Samurai in 2009. I have maximum freedom now thanks to working on my side-hustle while working for 2.5 years. You never know where your journey will take you!

Blogging For A Living Income Example: $300,000+ - how to get hired if you are overqualified
A real income statement example from a blogger. Look at all the income possibilities! Click to see more examples of how much you can make blogging.

42 thoughts on “How To Get Hired If You Are Overqualified Or Don’t Need The Money”

  1. Pingback: Over The Hill At 40 - Age Discrimination In The Workplace | Financial Samurai

  2. Please let me know which company this is so that I can avoid these bunch of goons. I have to totally agree with you. I work full time and own an e-commerce business that far exceeds my day job salary yet I continue to stay on at my day job because I love doing what I do! This is very similar to Steve Chou’s story. And no, I am not him as you can probably tell from my IP address.

  3. Very interesting post, Sam.

    I often wonder how I would make a re-entry into the workforce if I wanted to or needed to. I’d like to mention the moderate success and lessons learned with my blog, and it would be a good way to fill a gap on my resume (founder, writer, public speaker, social media strategist, server admin, etc etc). Then again, I might not want the person conducting the interview to know I was FI (assuming I’m not struggling financially).

    I think I would probably take the same tack as you – explaining that I really want the job because it interests me and I’m not just doing it for the money. In a strange way, that’s a pretty compelling argument and should be a compliment to the interviewer and their employer. Although I assume most interviewers have their BS detectors turned up pretty high, so maybe this approach would come off as facetious.

    It must be a pretty common problem in Silicon Valley. I’m curious how the small time millionaires that started at a new firm, got some equity then got acquired or went IPO explain that even though they have a few million in the bank, they still want to work because New Employer is awesome. Maybe the average small time millionaire in Silicon Valley is anonymous enough that their interviewer wouldn’t know anything about their wealth.

    1. Not sure, but I think there are lots of millionaires in their 30s in San Francisco. I don’t think it’s so much my wealth, because unlike you, I don’t highlight my net worth, it’s the fact they can check the stats on very easily, and extrapolate its revenue. Because this site is way bigger than the employer’s site in terms of traffic, and most certainly in terms of profitability, the CEO just couldn’t get his head around why someone would want to work FT.

      The grass is always greener. They want what I have, and I’ve had what I’ve had for years now and am looking for a new adventure.

  4. I’ve been away from f/t W-2 work for two years now (click my handle for the story). The last five years of my worklife were frustrating, as I could not obtain improved compensation or responsibility, and consulting opportunities were really non-existent (and still are in my former industry).

    I have had a few opportunities to interview, but after several ‘sure things’ which didn’t pan out I realized that I had become the “too old/expensive” Goldilocks choice in the interview process. Search firms wanted to present several qualified candidates, and they were using me as a stalking horse. Ouch! The truth hurts!

    Some of those “opportunities” would also turn out to be low-ball offers, and in this current environment I am sure someone who needed to work would take a job at 70% of their old compensation. I started screening a few of the opportunities by asking about compensation, job duration, (and other no-nos) right away in in no instance were the answers tempting. So in the interest of respecting both the hiring client’s time and mine, I declined to pursue those ‘opportunities’. “No” is a powerful word. – Danny Mora

  5. Sam,

    May I suggest that you think outside the box on this one. How about getting the CEO and Board to recognize what you bring to the table and up the ante by offering you a Board seat. You put in a few hundred K of your own money, get a larger stake in the business and also Board fees. If you can get preferred shares all the better. You will still work hard but as an Investor / owner.


    1. Sure, definitely sounds like a good plan. Let’s see if it’s possible. I’ve been incubating since 2012 in order to build experience and more credibility. I’m pretty slow and methodical when it comes to doing new things as I want to understand everything thoroughly first.

      July 1, 2015 may or may not be an interesting time. Stay tuned for one of this week’s posts where I talk about pivoting in a new direction.

      1. I look forward to hearing more. As someone who is still working, but one who changed fields and job scopes to keep learning more while still investing heavily in a start up, I’d like to get your take on this.


  6. I completely agree about age discrimination, particularly in technology companies. After working at the youth-oriented Amazon for a couple of years, I’ve started to remove my job history over 10 years on my resume and LinkedIn profile. The last 10 years of experience is all that is really relevant in terms of the next role.

  7. I’ve heard to advice to never let your supervisors know if you happen to have more money than they do, or if you happen to come from money. What do you think of that advice? It comes from a very cynical place, that people don’t want to hire underlings unless they know they’re getting someone who can be easily controlled.

    1. This is not related to the article at all. Michelle’s comment brought my memory back to a man whom I know very well. He was not rich at all, worked very hard and was also very frugal for his entire life, but was able to help few families out of poverty. Personally, I think he had a rich life.
      And I just watched a video and thought this man worked not because of money.

  8. I definitely missed out on a job once because of my age. It was the strangest set of interviews I have ever had and I was definitely qualified.

  9. I have been turned down a few times in the last year because I am over qualified and the company does not believe that I will take a large pay cut. Unfortunately, there are not many high-level positions where we want to live. I would much rather live there and make less than stay in my current rat-race. Why is that so difficult to understand? There comes a point when there are more important things than compensation.

  10. earlyretired

    I get why you want to run a blog…, but signing up to say yes sir again…C’mon!

    Having been a CEO three times, I think your CEO friend did you and his company a great favor. Once you’ve had a view, its very hard to settle for anything less.

      1. I like negotiation so much that I’ve spent big chunks of a Friday evening or Saturday morning in the past going to a car dealership, picking out a car and then spending a couple hours working over the salesperson, the sales manager etc. trying to see if I could negotiate a ridiculous deal.

        Sometimes I would lose and just say “OK” and walk away.

        Other times I would win, tell them I needed to come back tomorrow to complete the deal, and never come back.

        I never had any intention of actually buying a vehicle.

        But talk about great negotiating practice :)

        1. Wow! You sound like a more hardcore version of me!

          One of my favorite free pastimes is to go to car dealerships and haggle and test drive. So fun! I go at least once a month. Just at Range Rover yesterday. No more markups!

            1. Mentioning the Yakezie Network would have added more fuel to the fire. But FS is as close to me as possible, so that’s what I went with. I may just mention Yakezie or something other site in the future, and keep FS private.

        2. Bogey and FS, a thought to share on this ‘negotiation practice’…the person you are negotiating with is working. To make money. At a job they probably don’t love. To not negotiate in good faith is stealing their time and opportunity. It would very much be like someone calling you to an interview, with no intention of hiring you.

          You may say ‘well, they are there anyway so what does it hurt?’ but in fact those salespeople could be learning about the product or following up prospects or shaking the trees.

          1. Indeed. I don’t take it as far as Bogey, but I do enjoy chatting up with the salespeople to talk about the latest models. And, if they don’t want to talk to me, all the better.

            The salespeople can use the opportunity to talk to Bogey as a way of figuring out how to filter non-serious people.

  11. RunByChildren

    Everything does get harder with age, except for finding understanding.

    The startup world is very male dominated in their 20s. Good luck trying to fit in in your 40s, or as a woman. The odds are against you.

  12. I’m not sure if my first attempt at commenting got through, so I’m commenting again. I’m past 40 and I definitely think age discrimination is a real issue. However, I haven’t removed graduation dates from my resume yet. I think that employers would see that as a red flag? Also, they could certainly look me up on LinkedIn and see my graduation dates. I’m not sure if you can include education in your LinkedIn profile without dates.

  13. On the original survey I said that you should create a product – at the very least you can do some traveling around Asia when you are having your product created.

    From a selfish perspective, I want to you to continue looking for jobs at start ups! It would be really interesting to hear your experiences. My husband will be quitting his job in the upcoming months to work for a start up — he needs some excitement since he has been working for big companies for so many years.

    1. Exciting times for you and your husband! If he’s been working at big firms for a while, I’m sure he’ll enjoy the much quicker pace. You can be more impactful at a startup, which is the biggest part of the journey. I truly believe most startup employees will end up poorer than if they worked at a market rate job with little to no equity. My eyes are wide open and it is amazing WHO WINS (VCs, usually the founders) and who loses (employees).

      I’m not willing to blow anybody up publicly. There are plenty of examples on the web where employees walked away with little-to-nothing. Just know that it’s an uphill climb to do financially well as a startup employee.

  14. I didn’t fully appreciate the rules we have to prevent age discrimination until it started happening to me. In my job search I was looking at a lot of roles in different industries that were more junior to what I had been doing, and employers couldn’t understand why I was interested. I had to try hard to convince recruiters that even though I was older than the majority of candidates applying, I was more interested than them and very capable of doing the job. It’s been a lot harder to find a job having over 10 years of experience versus when I had 2-5 and you’re right that it takes time to find the right fit. We gotta use the missed connections to keep going until we find better opportunities.

    Sorry to hear that job didn’t work out but it sounds like it was for the best. I’m sure one day soon they will be kicking themselves all day long for not hiring you! You deserve better and now you can continue to maximize your time much better this way too!

  15. Wall Street Playboys

    Some of your posts are downright hilarious. You’re successful enough that working for $135K or even considering it is lunacy.

    Again going to stick with the guns, you don’t want a new career/job… You are simply bored. This is why we chose the “start a product company” option from one of your posts 1-2 weeks back.

    It makes more sense.

    Maybe you’re trying to shake being risk averse, you looked for a career that you knew you’d already be good at. This blog is another example, you already know finance (obviously) so you picked something ancillary (PF blog).

    The reality (pure guesswork) is the most fun time for you was around year 2/3 when it started really taking off and all your hard work came to fruition.

    This again is why you’d be thrilled to do something new.

    What the ceo didn’t say and the real question he should have asked:

    “You have already succeeded at doing this position, why would you continue if you already know you can do it?”

    That job/career would have been boring by year 1.

    You’re far too bright to do the same crap over and over again. Do something new and see if you can succeed in a new venture! As always just an opinion.

    1. I would work at In N’ Out Burger as a burger flipper for $10.25/hour if that’s what it took to join an organization that was going places!

      Seeking rejection, negotiations, and exploring new opportunities are hobbies of mine. I want to see if I can do it. And when I fail, I get excited because it provides motivation and some learnings to share with the community.

      1. Ah, little do ye know…It takes quite a bit of experience to become a burger flipper at In-N-Out. For $10.25 an hour you’d be cleaning tables, doing dishes, and taking money at the first window. Eventually you’d learn to take orders at the counter, then at the drive through, then make fries, then dress the burgers, and if you were on a management track you’d start cooking the burgers. And at that point you’d be making closer to $20 an hour (I assume…it’s been almost 12 years since I’ve worked there so I’m making assumptions about their wage inflation). Speaking of which, what an awesome first job! And honestly, if I reached financial independence and got bored, going back to work for In-N-Out wouldn’t be the worst idea. Generally good co-workers, interact with people all the time, energetic environment, good food…

  16. Heck yeah, I have been discriminated against. I work as an IT infrastructure architect/consultant. I own my own company and am not looking to be a full time employee unless it is the right opportunity. I have found a few clients who were looking to hire full time which I felt would be good full time fits. This is after I have been a consultant at their company for a few months. They either say the following to me:
    1) How can you give up all the money consulting to work full time?
    2) You are over qualified for the position you are applying.

    Consultants only make money when they work. If they work 2000 hours a year, yeah they make more than any w-2 employee. However getting those jobs are rare and taking 2-3 month engagements with weeks off between them is common place. So yeah, I make about the same as a w-2 employee (with the added overhead of business expenses).

    As for the overqualified thing, wouldn’t you want someone overqualified? I mean your job description says you want someone with at least 10-15 years experience, then hey, I am someone with 15 years experience. It is your job description that is bunk not my experience as I spend my time learning.

    At the end of the day, I get people who look at me because I am a consultant, and think it is a glamorous life, and wonder why I would ever go back to w-2. Well stability is one thing, and also passion for a company is another. Otherwise, it is just a job.

    1. Grass is always greener I guess.

      Bingo about your last line. “Just a job” is bullshit. It would be a damn shame spending half of your life just doing a crap job you don’t enjoy, or work for a company you don’t believe in.

      I actually believe Consulting/Freelancing is more stable now than a FT job if you can obtain multiple clients.

  17. Sam,

    Your experience in building FS is certainly very unique and very impressive. You said:

    “…I understand how to help companies build their content marketing efforts, rank well in SEO, engage an audience, build a community, and generate leads if they’re willing to stick things through for a couple years.”

    How do you think this relates to a company that is not internet focused, per se? What I mean is that I am currently running a fairly traditional, small manufacturing company (we manufacture signage, decals, other commercial printing, t-shirt printing, etc.). I am currently racking my brain on how to leverage the internet to grow this company, primarily with a local focus.

    Even though I am a younger person, my previous life was as a banker, so I am more used to utilizing “old school” methodologies to grow business.

    Perhaps the next thing you need to add to your resume is a very limited, pro bono consulting gig with a non-tech company not located on the East or West coast. I am fairly certain you don’t have anything even close on your resume currently :)

    Great article, and so fascinating to read details about the life of someone in such a different walk than myself.


    1. As an employer, I would definitely lean towards hiring someone who is eager and on the overqualified side than on the underqualified side. It’s like getting a free chocolate milkshake after only paying for bacon, eggs, and waffles!

      The concern is the job-hopping norm that is pervasive in startup culture and perhaps in other industries nowadays. When I was hiring people at my old job, I would NEVER consider someone who moved around every 1-3 years. It takes 6 months to develop a relationship internally and another 6 months to catch your stride and build relationships externally. To leave after 1-3 years is a big waste of time!

      But now, everybody seems to be a mercenary. They move for a lousy $20,000 increase after a couple years, when that’s $14,000 after taxes. There’s this amazing perpetual FOMO in startup land where everybody knows someone who struck it rich, so they need to keep trying to find their Unicorn.

      Finally, tech/internet/fintech startups fire aggressively as well.

      Every man and woman for themselves! It’s exciting to experience and witness it all.

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