Told You're 'Overqualified' For The Job? Here's What They Really Mean

overqualified job what it means

Have you ever had an employer or recruiter say you're "overqualified" for a job? Honestly, how can you really be "overqualified" for a job? You can either do the job, or you can't. How can having more experience than required be a negative, right?

So, what does "you're overqualified" really mean?
First, it's important to know that it's a catch-all excuse that hiring managers, recruiters and HR use to politely eliminate you from the candidate pool. Why do they use it? If they said what they were really passing on you for, it would seem silly, petty, or down-right discriminatory. In fact, here are nine most common reasons they are saying it:

1. Your personality isn't a match for the office/department culture.
You were either too upbeat or too low-key and came across wrong. Or your personality would clearly rub an existing employee the wrong way and the employer doesn't want to deal with the drama that hiring you would bring.

2. You don't look like you would fit in.
Your attire indicated that you weren't the type of person that would be a fit for the organization. (Yes, what you wear matters. People discriminate on clothing all the time!)

3. You seem like a slow worker.
Your voice speed was slow, methodical, and gave off the impression that you wouldn't be able to keep up with the pace of the work environment.

4. You have too many degrees and/or were paid too much previously.
The assumption is that you'll quit when a better job comes along, leaving the employer to have to start the search all over again.

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5. You didn't seem reliable.
Your answers to questions made it appear like you had health issues, personal life challenges, or attendance issues that would cause you to not be on-time and accountable.

6. You acted like a know-it-all in the interview.
You said, "Well, at my old company, we did it this way..." one too many times. Plus, you oversold yourself. As a result, you gave off the impression that you weren't ready to learn something new, nor ready to adapt to a different environment than the one you were in.

7. You didn't seem like you really knew what you were talking about.
You came across as not having as much expertise as your resume indicated. You didn't answer questions in the way expected.

8. I don't like you, can't see working with you every day, and I just don't want to be rude.
You didn't connect with the hiring manager, and maybe even rubbed them the wrong way. Employers assume that if they didn't feel comfortable with you in the interview, it will only get worse over time.

9. I already have the candidate I want and interviewing you is just a formality.
Some hiring managers by law, or company policy, have to post and interview for jobs. Many times, they already have who they want to hire. So, they just go through the process to cover their bases.

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Notice There's No "Fear of Competition" in the List
When people see this list, they often say, "J.T., what about the fact that the hiring manager probably realized I was more qualified than them and was scared that I'd take their job?" My answer is: It's not on the list because it's not usually what they are thinking. That's more of an excuse job seekers use to justify why they didn't get selected. It makes them feel better to put down the employer who didn't pick them. I won't deny that there are some insecure hiring managers out there. But, for the most part, the average hiring manager who is looking for a new employee generally feels good about their status in the organization and has a clear sense of the kind of person they want to bring on board. Trust me, if you are more qualified but can convey sincerely to the employer that you respect their position and don't want it, you can get hired. In fact, I know many hiring managers who like to hire people whom they feel are smarter or more accomplished than them in certain areas, as a way to strengthen the abilities of their team.


Can You Overcome the 'Overqualified' Objection?
When you get told you are "over-qualified," ask the manager the following question:

"What is your concern with respect to my experience in terms of how it will hurt my ability to do the job?"

This question will force the manager to articulate how they see being "overqualified" as a bad thing. If they are honest, you just might have a shot at giving them a response that could change their mind. For example, if the concern is about your degrees or former pay grade, you can say, "I can assure you that my goal is not to leave a new job for a different one. I applied here because I like the company and see being able to work in an environment I appreciate and respect worth more than money alone."

When we get the "overqualified" objection to our candidacy, we have to do what we can to understand what's really making the hiring manager say "no" to hiring us. And, if you are getting it a lot, it might be time to work with a coach who can be honest with you and see if the way you are presenting yourself is really the reason for the excuse that they are giving you. Often we don't know how we are appearing to hiring managers and can use a little "interview intervention" to help us send the right message. I work with job seekers daily inside my Career HMO to help them present themselves better in interviews. They are always shocked to learn what they were saying was giving off the wrong impression. Interview prep that helps you anticipate the objection and deal with it effectively can make a big difference.

Don't let the "overqualified" reason get the best of you. See what you can do to improve the chances of you being a fit by getting feedback and assistance on your interview skills. It could make all the difference!


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