All posts by Mikko Taipale

I thought I was a perfect candidate

… but I was told I am overqualified – how to think?

Based on many coaching sessions with candidates I see some common questions coming up time after time. One of the hot topics in career coaching sessions for experienced and senior clients is how to think in a following situation:

You have applied for a position you really believe you are the perfect candidate for – you have all the formal functional requirements, you have had many years of experience of similar challenges and you have the needed leadership and management experience. Still, you were not even interviewed or, if you did, did not get an offer. The popular feedback from many recruiters is that you are overqualified. Or in other words, the employer does not believe this is the right level for you and you would probably get bored or demotivated because the job would not provide enough challenges.

How should I think?

First, you may choose to agree that you were overqualified. This means that you accept that you made a mistake, and the job would most likely have not been a right fit and you should never have applied. This means that you need to go back to your own expectations, requirements, competence, and experience and revise your job search strategy.

However, it is quite common that you disagree with the recruiter. When you have had very senior assignments in the past you might feel inspired when working more operationally or having a smaller team. You sincerely applied for the job with a true believe that the company and role description would exactly meet your expectations. You wanted to have this position, not a  at a higher level or providing more complexity, higher management level or huge salary increase. In my coaching sessions I see disappointment and even anger when you were disqualified as overqualified.

After receiving such feedback, I suggest you get over your disappointment and negative feelings and revise your job search strategy. Situations vary of course a lot but here are my top take-aways after many years of career coaching.

  • I believe the most critical item is to analyze what kind of jobs you want to apply to taking into consideration that you can sometimes be regarded as overqualified. This is needed to create clear limitations meaning which ones of your requirements are “must haves without compromise” and “nice to haves with some flexibility”.
  • You need to communicate why you want to have the particular position. Your CV and Cover letter need to be updated to reflect this. The best way is to express what is your personal desired potential of the role. As an example, if you have +20 years of experience on managing IT projects and the requirement is minimum 5 years, you already know that you risk being regarded as overqualified. My proposal would be that you clearly identify the arguments supporting your job application such as learning new products or working for a company within your specific interest area.
  • Having the feeling of being a perfect candidate might be both good and bad in the interview situation. You may sound very trustworthy and competent, but you might also risk for be perceived as arrogant with a “know-all” attitude. Therefore, you need to practice your interview skills and techniques.

To sum up, in practice, this means that you only apply for the positions you really want, feel motivated for and can be transparent both to yourself and the recruiter why you want to have the job. In interview situations you will need to demonstrate high motivation, collaboration skills, openness towards new learnings and cultural adaptiveness.

By following these steps, you work proactively against the argument of being overqualified and reduce the risk of losing an opportunity you really want.

When you work on your strategy, finetune your CV and cover letter and practice your interview skills you will increase your chances remarkably. A good career coach can help you with these areas and challenge your current way of thinking and support you to  perform better in your search for your next assignment.

We, at AIMS International Sweden, ensure major focus on supporting that our clients always find the best available candidate to each position. By doing this we continuously interview the candidates with various experience and secure that we understand both the employer and candidate expectations. We are always transparent when sharing the feedback to our candidates and very often provide individual career coaching as a part of our Candidate Management Process. Through our Talent Management Solutions, we put extra focus on coaching and supporting onboarding and making sure that our candidates will perform in their new assignments.


Mikko Taipale                                                                                                  

Senior Consultant
Executive Search and Talent Management

You might be interested in these articles:
Your recruitment practice should strengthen your Employer Brand
Strategic talent management – not only for large corporates
Meet Šarūnas Dyburis

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Your recruitment practice should strengthen your Employer Brand

Who doesn´t want to work for a company which has a good reputation, great vision and strategy, clear purpose, sustainable business and committed employees? We believe the answer is evident: everyone wants to work for the best companies.

Many companies invest enormous amount of time and effort when defining their Talent Acquisition and Employer Branding Strategies. These strategies usually include Employer Value Proposition (or simpler: Promise to prospective and current employees) and Employer Marketing activities. It is common that these projects in defining these fundamental elements are time-consuming and engage both internal HR, Senior Managers, and the Board level. The benefits of successful Employer Branding are hardly contested: lower cost of recruitment through a larger qualified talent pool and lower employee turnover, just to name a few.

We claim, based on our experience, that the true challenge is not to what and how to define and express ourselves in various marketing tools. A big-time challenge is rather to demonstrate we live up to some fundamental principles in interacting with our talent, internal and external, and show the genuine commitment to company values and Employer Branding related statements that we make towards our Candidates and Employees.

We have seen that the way how the recruitment practice is functioning sets the company branding related statements on test. There are number of articles in Social Media where candidates share stories on how negative they felt after the recruitment process. This is usually not only related to the outcome but rather the way they were treated during the recruitment process.

To our point, here comes our TOP 5 advice how to strengthen your Employer Brand when recruiting:

  1. Make sure your Recruiters, Line Managers and external Recruitment Partners share same view on expectations and can represent the company brand. Having a good teamwork between employer branding specialists, recruiters and line managers will be essential part of your success.
  2. Treat the candidates with a great amount of respect and be prepared when interacting with them. A professional and well-structured interview is a MUST and ensures candidates are correctly assessed. You might have a look at a great article written by Torsten Miland, AIMS Partner in Denmark, on recommended interview process and questions.
  3. Every Candidate you have connected with needs clear feedback, during the process and after the recruitment decision has been made. The in-depthness of feedback must relate to how much time the Candidate spends in the process. Simply expressed: if you interview and then dismiss the Candidate, you need to give detailed reasons for doing that.
  4. After hiring the Candidate make sure your onboarding process is proactive and introduces the new employee into the company, it´s culture and people, in a structured way.
  5. After On-Boarding measure if the introduction period has been successful and develop the process based on feedback. This means that you need to set objectives for the onboarding and find ways to measure how well your organization performed.

The common nominator is that you communicate openly with your candidates and new employees. After all, they have chosen your company as an employer and are worth some extraordinary attention.

Here one concrete example how long-lasting impact the right kind of behavior might have. Please, check out the great story on Lego (and on, at the time 7-year-old, Zachary Ledford wrote a letter to Lego and the response he got. The response letter the manager wrote to him tells a lot about Legos culture.The letter has created, after being written 25 years ago, a wide Social Media exposure and strengthened Legos Employer Brand in a way which many companies would only dream of.

Our experience is that if you follow the 5 advices mentioned above you will already most likely outperform some of your competitors.

We, at AIMS International Sweden, ensure major focus on supporting that our clients live up to their Employer Branding statements and that the candidates are treated well during the process. We are always transparent on what kind of feedback we get from our candidates and aim to develop and strengthen our client´s employer attractiveness.  Through our Talent Management Solutions, we put extra focus on supporting onboarding and making sure that our candidates will perform in their new assignments.

Employer brand

More articles that could be of interest:
Strategic Talent Management not only for large corporates

Sex sätt att boosta ditt ledarskap – (in Swedish)

Mikko Taipale – Göran Arvidson


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Strategic talent management – not only for large corporates

I have sometimes faced the question if Talent Management processes are only for large corporates or could all companies benefit from Talent Management processes. I believe the question is highly relevant and needs to be put into the context of your business needs and how Talent Management can add value for your company.

Implemention of business strategy and business plan

In short, the purpose of Strategic Talent Management is to secure the implementation of business strategy and business plan.  Strategic Talent Management is about assessing current competences, both leadership – and functional wise, and defining the future needs.  The business value is generated through agreeing on actions to secure that the competency gaps will be closed.

Large corporates have established routines and are often used to work with Strategic Talent Management to identify leadership related risks, creating plans for key executive succession. They have also established work routines on how to follow up performance and future talent development in the company. It is a common practice within large and usually publicly listed companies to have annual strategic discussions at the Board level where talent strategy becomes a part of the business strategy.

However, I believe that all companies can benefit from having a more structured approach on how to manage and develop their critical talents. For the company, the established Talent Management process gives the framework and future roadmap how to develop its workforce and ensure the execution and performance. Successful Strategic Talent Management helps companies to outperform their competitors and, therefore, creates shareholder value by delivering higher Total Return to Shareholders (TRS) than the competitors.

The benefits of Strategic Talent Management for the employees are obvious. It helps companies to attract the best talents, increases employee engagement and strengthens talent retention. During times of uncertainty, as in current situation with Covid-19, it also increases company´s proactiveness and readiness to meet the unexpected.

Strategic Talent Management is usually driven by CEO and the Board and supported by Human Resources function. We have seen that these solutions vary a lot between the companies and successful outcome can be reached in different ways depending on the company size, ownership, IT environment, management readiness and HR function capabilities. For example, in a start-up company where the CEO is a major owner together with some other key people the process can be designed to meet their specific challenges.Today many of these companies struggle because talent related issues are handled as short-term challenges and leading to reactive firefighting and finally risking the execution of company targets.

I have been working many years both strategically and operationally within Talent Management and have implemented different solutions to develop talent and to increase the performance. The feedback I have received during the years relate to complexity, process orientation and lack of execution and follow-up. My experience is that the requested improvements can usually be implemented without losing the quality of Talent Management solution.

We at AIMS International Sweden are specialized to support companies broadly when working with Talent Management issues including building new way-of-working and providing Coaching, Leadership Assessments and Executive Search. Please contact us in AIMS International Sweden in case you want to hear more from the solutions we can provide.

MikkoMikko Taipale works as Executive Search and Talent Management Consultant in AIMS International Sweden. Before starting in AIMS International Sweden he worked close to 20 years in large corporates as a HR leader with a focus on Talent Management practices.

Talent Management

Posted in AIMS International Sweden, Talent Management | Leave a comment

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