About a week and a half ago, I went to a job interview. The overall atmosphere was pretty relaxed, the folks interviewing me seemed to like my portfolio samples, and they even commented on how the landscape orientation of my resume made it easy to read on their computer screens without having to scroll.

In short, the interview went very well.The phone call to let me know whether or not I got the job came while I was on my way home from a couple of unexpected errands; since I don’t talk on my cell phone while I’m driving, I let the call go to voice mail.

It wasn’t entirely a surprise that I didn’t get the job. No matter how well I think an interview has gone, the job seems to always go to someone else. I’ve persevered because I know that (a) doing more interviews will help me do better, and (b) one of these days the interview will result in my actually getting the job I’m applying for.

No, what was a surprise was the reason: “Overqualified.” (Actually, they also gave me the “we decided to go in a different direction” reason as well, but “overqualified” came first.)

This puzzled me. This puzzles me.

As many over-40 job seekers know, “overqualified” is often code for “you’re too old” (I’m 49). That was the first thought to cross my mind—but I dismissed it because one of the folks interviewing me was probably four or five years older than I am.

I’m not sure how it could be because of my experience. While there are a couple of folks for whom I’ve done a lot of work, I’ve been a graphic designer for barely over three years—two years, if one stops to consider that I had a grand total of one project during the first year after graduating from the community-college design program I’d completed.

Granted, the position I applied for was more of a production job than a design job—but shouldn’t designers want to have experience in the production end of things? After all, from stories I’ve heard, designers often have a reputation for being clueless when it comes to dealing with printers, and understanding the various aspects of print production.

Either way, I’d specifically mentioned in my cover letter that I understood that the job was more production-oriented than design oriented—and I specifically said during the interview that I was interested in the job precisely because it was production-oriented, because I wanted that experience. Seeing as how I’d also included the requisite links to my portfolio in my cover letter, if they felt I was “overqualified”, why would they have called me for an interview in the first place?

By this point in my thoughts about the whole thing, I’m very puzzled—and kind of frustrated as well. I mean, I’m relatively new to my chosen field, I’m applying for a job which is not only temporary and seasonal, but also (let’s face it) entry level. Yes, I demonstrate during the interview that I know my stuff, but I’m not expecting $40 an hour, and I’m enthusiastic about the job. (Not to mention that I’m not going to waste anyone’s time by applying for a job I’m underqualified for.)

“Overqualified”? Doesn’t that mean they’d have gotten more for their money by hiring me? I guess they’ll never know…

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