If you’ve ever been told you’re overqualified, this is for you.
Being rejected is never fun.
Being rejected for a job you wanted is not even close to being fun.
But being rejected for a job you wanted because they said you’re overqualified is a special kind of aggravation. You can clearly do the job, and you’re available, and willing, and yet… and yet… yet they still don’t want you.
As it turns out, there are many reasons why. Annoyingly but also fortunately, they don’t usually have anything to do with you.
Here are real reasons why employers are so quick to pull out the ‘overqualified’ rejection.
Free bonus: The Midlife Job Search Report is a handy guide I compiled for older job seekers. Download it now.
‘It’s not you, it’s me’: 9 Reasons to Reject You
1. Employer concern about being able to pay you ‘fairly’
Before starting a recruitment process, employers usually know roughly how much they can afford to pay the new hire. Having more experience and skills than other candidates, employers recognize that you bring more value and are perceived as needing higher pay even if your salary requirements haven’t even been discussed yet in interviews.
If that perceived higher salary is higher than their budget for the position, ‘you’re overqualified.’
2. Employer concern about being able to keep you long enough
You’ll leave as soon as a better opportunity comes along, because “you have so many options” with your extra skills and experience compared to other candidates. Recruitment is expensive, so employers want the most return on their investment.
If employers think you’ll get recruited elsewhere sooner than later, ‘you’re overqualified.’
3. Employer concern you’ll be unwilling to do tasks ‘beneath you’
“You might be willing to do whatever the job requires, but if you’ve held equivalent or higher positions in the past, maybe there are some tasks you just won’t touch because you see your time as too valuable…” thinks a hiring manager who often themselves is unwilling to do tasks ‘beneath them.’
If employers think there’s any aspect of the job you might not do, ‘you’re overqualified.’
4. Employer concern you’ll be bored
Suppose you really are willing to do whatever the job requires. Who’s to say that you won’t ultimately find the job too easy and unchallenging, going sour and bringing down the mood at work and your colleagues with it?
If employers think you’ll get bored quickly, ‘you’re overqualified.’If employers think you’ll get bored quickly, ‘you’re overqualified.’Click To Tweet
5. Employer concern about younger people managing older people
If your potential boss is younger, especially if they’re much younger, they might be anxious about how you’d respond to their authority. It doesn’t even matter how old you are, or if you’ve even been in a similar situation before.
If employers think your relationship with their younger manager might be a problem, ‘you’re overqualified.’
6. Manager views you as a potential internal competitor
Many bosses and managers are insecure in their roles, regardless of whether they merit them or not. But when along comes a candidate like you who might deserve their role even more – even if that’s not the job you’re currently being considered for – their forward-looking inferiority complex will push them to push you far, far away.
A job seeker once related this:
… I’ve had 2 interviews – 1 with a guy who told me I was overqualified (because he wasn’t comfortable when I asked why they were doing everything manually instead of creating a database and queries to process hundreds of applications per day) and the other offered me the job before the end of the day
If a potential boss sees you as a future threat, ‘you’re overqualified.’
7. Recruiter laziness
There’s a lot you can say in a job interview to allay frankly all of the above concerns, but only if recruiters take the time to express them to you and give you a chance to respond. The reality is that for an overwhelmed, tired or lazy recruiter, it’s just so much easier to dismiss you out of hand than to bother.
8. Recruiter excuses for other reasons they can’t or won’t give you
In Why Recruiters Lie When Rejecting You, the Recruiting Animal says:
No recruiter gives substantial feedback. We can’t. If you’re missing specific skills and someone else has them we can tell you that because it is a matter of fact. But we can’t tell you that the hiring manager doesn’t like you because you look a bit frumpy or because you’re a drip.
And there are a lot of reasons why (over)qualified candidates can be rejected or even discriminated against: poor cultural fit, bad interviews, etc., but if you qualify for one of those, it’s just easier to say you’re overqualified.
9. Recruiter manipulation
You never had a chance, even before you came through the door. The recruiter already knows who they want to hire, but an interview quota needed to be filled. Your overqualified resume made you easy to spot as a candidate who could help fill that quota and ‘legitimately’ be rejected without raising any eyebrows from superiors.
The sad truth about being overqualified
The ‘overqualified’ rejection is usually avoidable.
The reality is that if you get rejected this way, it’s almost always because you applied for the wrong job.
Had you done your homework, you could have applied to a company that had a history of hiring people like you, and would have been much less likely to give you that ‘overqualified’ label.
Had you done your homework, you would have valued your qualities more accurately and instead been able to find an employer who does the same.
Getting a job doesn’t mean you need to compromise dramatically.
The good news
In a response to a question about startups on Quora, entrepreneur Nicholas Chavez responded:
My first mentor who had many millions of dollars taught me three valuable lessons that are applicable here:
- In life you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate.
- Hire every overqualified mother%#$&@% you can find.
- If someone asks for more than you intended to pay, simply tell them “I’d love to pay you ($200k)! Can you walk me through the model that will help me do that?
Put differently- for the
startup founders employers smart enough to recognize it and willing to take you seriously, ‘overqualified’ really means ‘qualified plus benefits.’
You just need to do your homework and find them.
- The Myth of the Overqualified Worker
- What Does “Overqualified” Actually Mean?
- How to apply for (and get) a job that you’re overqualified for
The Midlife Job Search Report is a handy guide I compiled to help older job seekers.This free download contains:
- 5 Common Mistakes Older Job Seekers Make
- How To Defeat Any Form of Job Search Discrimination
- How Older Job Seekers Beat These Common Stereotypes
- 9 Scary Reasons Overqualified Job Seekers are Rejected
- 40 Tips for Older Job Seekers That Actually Get Results
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