If you’ve ever been told you’re overqualified, this is for you.

9 Real Reasons Overqualified Job Seekers are Rejected
Photo by Joshua Earle

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.

If you're over 35, have you ever been told explicitly that you're overqualified?

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’

reasons overqualified job seekers are rejected tweet

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

reasons overqualified job seekers are rejected tweet 2

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:

  1. In life you don’t get what you deserve.  You get what you negotiate.
  2. Hire every overqualified mother%#$&@% you can find.
  3. 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.

reasons overqualified job seekers are rejected tweet 3
Other takes

Free Bonus

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  • 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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Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has 86 Comments

  1. Karalyn Brown

    Great post Jacob, one bit of feedback I hear from recruiters & employers is around what to do when someone is clearly overqualified. Do they believe them when they say they want the job and reassure them they will stick around.

    There are lots of reasons people want “lesser” roles, including lifestyle choices and less stress. Perhaps over-qualified should stress where the role fits with their broader lives as well, as priorities do change as you get older.

    Love the idea of your online course – keep me posted and I’ll spread the word.

    1. Anne-Marie

      I second this – and will add that there is much power in a well-written cover letter. Especially if you’re applying for jobs that would seem “below” your level of experience. People need to understand that recruiters and hiring managers can’t read minds, and sometimes when you have to wade through hundreds of resumes with tight deadlines, having answers to your concerns right in front of you can mean the difference between being successful and unsuccessful.

      1. Jacob Share

        Good insight, Anne-Marie. It’s so hard for people to put themselves in other people’s shoes, as so many job seekers have no clue what recruiters are thinking when opening their email applications.

      2. Kathleen

        Anne-Marie – I would love to hear more about what tips you would offer on how to incorporate addressing these types of concerns within the actual cover letter itself. In my particular scenario I was making 50K+ per year as a mid level manager when my position was transferred overseas to another office within our firm. I was laid off, and now I can’t even get people to respond when I apply for a data entry position that pays $13.00 per hour, but I’m stuck looking for these types of positions because I have exhausted my unemployment insurance and need to find a part time job to being something in every month.

        I would be really interested


    2. Philip Tonnee

      As one who has been there, you make excellent points.
      Have had interviews where everyone was relaxed and I even made them laugh.
      Been told that I deserved a better opportunity.
      Don’t want to show desperation, my bills must be paid.

  2. Jacob Share

    Karalyn- that’s a great tip for the right frame of mind in interviews. I’ll quote you if I do a followup.

    And I’ll definitely let you know if the course moves ahead, thanks

  3. Donald S Brant Jr

    “Overqualified” is often a “dog whistle” phrase for “too old”.

    1. Jessie's girl

      That’s not necessarily true. There are young candidates that have advanced career backgrounds but are still “overqualified” despite their age!

      1. S.R.

        Very true. I am in my mid 30’s and have worked for four (4) globally recognized brands. When I show up for an interview, people are surprised by all of the elite companies I’ve worked for. I, too, had a major health setback about a year ago and had to take some time off. I want to return to work, but I’m getting the overqualified excuse. In fact, I had one interviewer tell me that she felt I could take her job….and SHE WAS NOT JOKING! It’s been frustrating. I’ve trimmed my resume and people still feel threatened.

      2. John Doe

        There aren’t as many of those as you may think.

    2. Richard Silverman

      If you are 50+, that’s exactly what overqualified means – too old.

      1. Jacob Share

        Too often, you’re right, but not as often as you think and in some countries, things are getting better

      2. Tom Hal

        I was present during a hiring interview via a common web conferencing tool (not Skype) in which the chair of my department was speaking with several national candidates for a post-doc in our program. One of the individuals had taken time off after earning his PhD at a very competitive program to care for a dying parent. He’d remained active in publishing even while he cared for his mother for seven years, and had even given multiple poster presentations internationally every year over this time. So he was very qualified–objectively more so than anyone else. My department chair actually uttered these words in the interview: “You’re 37, aren’t you?” The man was 36, but knew better than to correct the individual who momentarily held the keys to the applicant’s future. I was stunned that one of the world’s premier research universities, at least a representative of it, could commit such a glaring breach of both state and federal law. And it happened right in front of me.

        If the most brilliant citizens schooled in the illegality of discrimination are still prone to discriminate against applicants unfairly and illegally, then anyone can. And this problem is especially prevalent in technology industries such as mine. Making matters worse, thanks to recent US Supreme Court decisions, litigation against discrimination has become even harder to prove, allowing lawbreakers to skate away scotch free.

        Our group’s newest post-doc, as of June 2016, is a 26-year-old CS engineering graduate who, though very bright and capable, simply doesn’t hold a candle to the stellar but a decade older candidate who was passed over for the crime of caring for a dying parent who had no other living relatives who could help.

    3. Annie Stauffer

      Certainly sometimes, but not always. I’m only 22, and I just graduated with a bachelor’s degree a few months ago, having had internships and other experiences in my field during my time in college. I was told I was overqualified for a position that is related to my field. I was told she was worried that I’d “get bored quickly”. I can only assume that means they either weren’t willing to pay what they THOUGHT I would ask for (which was never even discussed), or they didn’t think they could keep me there long enough for it to be worth their while. In fact, I would’ve stayed, even if I got bored, because there were many other incentives. I’m tied down to where I’m currently living, and this area does not have much to offer in the way of positions in my field, but my boyfriend, who I live with and intend to marry, has an amazing job here. So yes, I really wanted this job, would’ve taken it in a heartbeat, and wouldn’t have given up on it quickly at all. Instead, I’m going to start as a barista next week, which won’t pay much (somehow I wasn’t told I was overqualified for that?).

      By the way, I never even got to the point of an interview. This was all said over email.

      1. Jacob Share

        Thanks for sharing your story, Annie, and showing that the overqualified rejection isn’t only for older job seekers.
        Good luck with the barista job, but keep looking for something more career-related and freelance on the side too.

    4. Bryan S

      Yes, Donald, you’re right. Having been a recruiter for one of the world’s largest tech and software firms in the US Pacific Northwest and having had many corporate peers in recruiting over the years, I can confirm your supposition. Of course, no recruiter or company will admit this–we’re too aware of the actual law. But thanks to SCOTUS, it’s now more difficult than ever to prove age discrimination. Worse, since the government itself routinely practices age discrimination, our culture has unofficially given it a collective nod of approval. Sadly.

      Don’t believe those who fabricate justifications for what research study after study shows to be true–and to begin as early as 35. Age discrimination is pervasive in US employment culture.

    5. Tom H

      Agreed. The US government itself has published evidence of just this. Yet here we are still offering excuses for consistent empirical evidence of ageism in the work force. Even despite your use of “often” (which is not “always”).

  4. Dalia El-Dib

    Another problem with being overqualified is your Ph.D. It is so clear for Ph.D. holders when switching from Academia to industry due to scarcity of academic jobs that many similar aged out there in industry have much more practical/hands-on skills than themselves. Trying to join them in industry as beginners because they still need the experience is not welcome at all as Ph.D. holders are right away marked as “overqualified”. Ph.D. holders might have a shorter learning curve, but they definitely need the job and need a chance.

  5. Dalia El-Dib

    Thanks for the great article, looking for more tips and hints.

  6. Jacob Share

    Donald- too true, sadly

    Dalia- that’s called being the victim of your own success

  7. Garth Klatt

    There is another reason. Many employers have strict policies concerning how much an employee must be paid based on both performance and qualifications. If you are “over qualified” they may be saying “This job earns ‘x’ dollars (over a certain range) for a person with such-and-such qualifications. Your qualifications exceed the formal job requirements meaning we will be obliged by policy to pay you more than the pay scale allows should you prove competent.”

    This sort of policy is very common although it often does the potential employer and employee no good. Bureaucracy.

  8. Jacob Share

    Garth- this comes back to the first reason I gave, and I appreciate you providing a more formal illustration.

    Having clear internal procedures is important for consistency and guidance, but based on the assumption of competence, employees should be hired to be trusted to make the right decisions i.e. when to be flexible and to be rigid, with procedure.

    Up with balloons, down with bureaucracy, I say 🙂

  9. John Campbell

    Put me on your list of folks interested in job seeking by older workers. I’m 60, hold a Ph.D, and retired early to start my own business. If it doesn’t pan out, I’ll be looking for a job.

  10. suzie30

    Over qualified means you are smarter or more mature than the interviewer and he feels threatened

    He has a great fear that you will show him up as an ignorant immature fool in front of his employees.

    There are some managers that deliberately take advantage of and therefore only hire ignorant people in order to feed their ego.

    If they feel like you are a threat to their ego they will tell you you are overqualified

    Overqualified means : I am intimidated by you.

    Take it as as complement and start your own business.

    Never allow any employer to define your self worth.

    Most people in the corporate world are just puppets anyways.

    1. Jacob Share

      You had me until ‘start your own business.’ Even if I do actively encourage more people to start businesses, it’s not for everyone and it’s definitely not something to rush into or to decide solely because someone scorned you. But you’re right that it might be a hint to take

  11. Tori

    I have heard people say to leave the MBA part off my resume. I am not sure if I should do that. What do you think?

    1. Jacob Share

      Dumbing down your resume to apply for a job often leads to jobs with unhappy employees, which is also bad for employers and colleagues. There are very few situations where it’s a good idea but it depends on whether you feel you have no choice (you usually do) or you simply want a simpler role that you would never get otherwise. For example, there are janitors, delivery people, etc., with PhDs, people who have already earned enough and just wanted a simple job with set hours that won’t stress them.

  12. Robert

    Sexism, racism and ageism are against the Law in NYC, but it is practiced. How does one deal with it?

    1. Jacob Share

      Hiring discrimination is usually difficult to prove.
      It’s a good idea to use your smartphone to record your interviews so that you can analyze and learn from them after the fact, but you’d need to consult with a lawyer to see if that recording is admissible in court if you catch someone saying something blatantly illegal.

      For more:


  13. Sifelani Ncube

    This is so really for me; an African Australian immigrant who has not seen the inside of an interview room in five years, despite having 3 cum laude masters degrees (including a MBA) and 2 BSc honours degrees! My family is starving and all I have are these useless certificates.. I have even taken them off the wall and buried them. Its gotten that embarrasing for me. I have tried everything, yet nothing seems to be making a difference.. 🙁

    1. Tom Hal

      This! It floors me how many career experts dance around an obvious fact: many people are closed out of employment opportunities for reasons wholly unrelated to professionalism or abilities. They’re disqualified for phenotypic characteristics that in no way impact efficacy. It’s illegal. It’s profoundly hurtful. But it’s happening everywhere. Several rigorous studies from leading business schools and university social psychology departments confirm that hiring teams’ personal (non-work-related) biases bear alarmingly heavily and frequently on who wins a job offer–especially as it has become commonplace for applicants to surpass educational and experience requirements for positions and present with luminous letters of recommendation or reference. I’m sure we all remember the recent Today article entitled, “Fatties Need Not Apply,” or the countless publications about persistent–and growing–ageism, or the omnipresent discrimination against the unemployed… Since so many of us are so very qualified, employers can now choose whomever they like for positions. And the operative word in that last sentence is “like.” Discrimination in its many guises is very much alive and well in hiring. And all this before even taking into account the outrageously increasing ratio of qualified graduates to available positions.

    2. Jane

      I’m a white woman whose over r5 and I cannot find work for 5 years in ottawa Canada. I alwAys held amazing jobs all my life. I rarely get an I terview but I’m weeded out at that stage. Minorities with poor English get hired before I do and I’m certain I do a better job. I just called a local hr of a hospital and the lady told me you don’t need any experience for the jobs. Funny all my life I needed a medical education and e lwrience to get hired by a hospital now they don’t?

  14. Bob

    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.

    That’s a ridiculous statement. How the fuck would you know the history of hiring people and what they were like. You’d have to stand in their parking lot and follow people home and then interview them. RIDICULOUS!!!!

    Stupid article.

    1. Jacob Share

      That’s a good question.

      In How To Defeat Any Form of Job Search Discrimination, I said:

      Thinking of applying for work at a certain company?
      …take a few minutes or even an hour to search their current employees’ LinkedIn profiles, with an eye to looking for a proven track record of them having already hired people like you…. If you’re an older job seeker, look for people with 20+ years of experience who aren’t founders.

      1. pigbtinmad

        I have done just that and every company’s roster looks like the film Logan’s Run (except that in Logan’s Run, the young people did not look quite so vapid and stupid — like all they ‘ve ever done is play video games).

        1. Jacob Share

          If the current roster doesn’t conclusively answer the question, and before you go on to research a different company, do a wider LinkedIn search for former employees who might also fit the bill. If that’s not conclusive and you still want to persist, try reaching out to some of the former employees to ask about company culture regarding midlife employees. Reach out first to ex-employees you have something in common with, if there’s anyone like that. People part of the same ‘ingroup’ are more likely to respond to each other.

  15. Bored


    Interesting topic. Totally true: I’m from South America and Im currently looking for a job (since july). I have the same problem here. I have 7 years of experience, Postgraduate degree, finishing a Master Degree. I’ve sent at least 40 cvs during the last 4 months, I’ve got 3 interviews but no job offer. I notice that when they call, the fist thing they ask is about my desired salary. One of them, told me that my cv was good, but they weren’t sure about the salary: “we offer $xxxxx amount. Are you sure it is ok for you??”. I said yes but they did not call back. I went to another company and I presented an exam, I think I did well, but I did not hear back either. Then I searched “the boss” cv in linkedin and I found out he had less education than me, and he was about my age. Maybe they though I was too old for the role . I don’t know just guessing.
    I’m not enjoying it, it is a very sad and difficult situation, not being able to work.

  16. William Hill.

    Article is wrong on a few points.
    Technically you are never overqualified for a job. That is bad to look at it that way.
    You are either qualified or not.
    So if you are fully qualified but a hiring manager does not want to hire you because you are too smart (not overqualified) for the job and they want to hire someone not as smart or dumber (this is a quantifyable metric by the way) then they are discriminating and you can sue their ass. Of course you will never get a job with them but they might settle a lawsuit for a few million

    1. Wendy Quon

      hiring is never black and white, unfortuantely. i was a victim of being overqualified myself. they told me that they just wanted someone who wants to be there and i need to go where i belong.

      1. Jacob Share

        Thanks for sharing your frustrating story, Wendy

  17. Tim Woods

    I have been told on multiple instances within the past six months or so that I am “overqualified” for jobs which I know require that level of expertise. Case in point, I was contacted by a recruiter about a position at a leading tech company near where I live that was looking for someone to drive global GTM efforts for a major initiative that impacted the company. The rate, while not fantastic, was definitely something I would consider and would be a huge win for me if I did it and did it well.

    I submitted my resume and got it through their HR police, but then when the hiring manager saw my resume I was rejected because they wanted to hire someone that would find this position challenging. I suspect that the hiring manager for this role was very underqualified him/herself and was afraid that someone like me would make her look “bad” by doing so well.

    GIven the fact that unemployment rate is still rather low (far from full employment, but still), companies should stop using this as a crutch — especially larger, more prestigious ones which will give you a foot in the door when you might not be able to get in otherwise.

    tl;dr – in many cases overqualified is simply corporate-speak for “legal” age discrimination. Remember for those of you readers that are in the US (can’t say for Israel), people over 40 years old do qualified as a protected class and it’s only going to become more obvious as time proceeds.

    1. Jacob Share

      Thanks for sharing your story, Tim. Hard to disagree with your take.

  18. pigbtinmad

    It’s just BS. I would love to be one of those people with options. I have NONE ZERO OPTIONS BECAUSE APPARENTLY EVERY JOB TODAY REQUIRES THAT YOU KNOW HOW TO DESIGN AND BUILD ROCKET SHIPS. The only thing I think is rocket science IS IN FACT Rocket Science. And I tell them that in no uncertain terms. It’s like, No I have not used Salesforce, but I have used 100 different databases like it. Piece O Cake!!!! “Oh but, you didn’t grow up with the internet.”

    On the other hand, when employers sit there and complain that people do not have skills (like the ability to do basic math) and then turn around and tell me I am over qualified, it burns me up and down. They never specifically say what these skills are. I mean, I am sure I can even understand data analalysis with one hour’s instruction because I was really good at Social Statistics and stuff when I was in college. But because you haven’t used the latest program dujours, you are considered an idiot. I could learn that program in ten minutes. But I can’t learn all 500 of them in hopes that there is one job that uses one of them (that will not dismiss me out of hand because of my age).

    I know there is no point in applying for any of these jobs because I won’t get it. I could spend the next 10,000 hours learning all of the latest things and I wouldn’t get the job. I would be chasing something that is obsolete in a vicious game of whack a mole. I would rather spend ten minutes learning after I am hired. That is a more efficient way. But you can’t convince all these stupid HR people of that.

    I do hope that the terrible practices of business do finally cause it to implode on itself. Maybe try providing a decent service instead of making profits by buying a successful product, then gutting it and providing no customer service. It makes people disgruntled and angry.

    I don’t much care anymore because with any luck I will be dead within the year, but I sure hope the future is one big miserable $#!T $#0W and you suffer 1000X for it.

    That is my hope for the future.

    1. Jacob Share

      I feel you.

      Don’t give up.

      At the very least, look for companies that are still using the older databases you do know and propose to consult or train employees for them. Medium to large companies in particular are slow in upgrading legacy services and that’s your opportunity. In parallel, search for opensource projects that are aiming to help companies ween themselves off the legacy services, and contribute to those projects. It’s win-win and a great way to attract employer attention.

  19. T Frank Bojczuk

    Having made nearly 41,000 job applications (UK) I feel its time to quit and become a bum. So what keeps me keep going – because Einstein said if you do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result your off your trolley. May be someone out there can help. No not to become a bum but to find out what’s going on?!!!

    1. Jacob Share

      Frank, whether it’s 41,000 or just 41, that’s a lot!
      In the comments above, I’ve given a few tips on using LinkedIn to find people who should be sympathetic to your job search. Give those tips a try, regarding job leads or simply to get some resume feedback from people familiar with your skills.

  20. pigbitinmad

    Regarding those who are afraid you will leave. I have been bashing my brains out for more than a decade trying to find a full-time job. It’s not like I have choices. I don’t care if I hated it and want to commit suicide every single day I will stick with the rotten job for as long as they pay me. I hate job hunting and would rather crawl over broken glass and barbed wire eight hours a day than do it.

    I have not seen one company that is willing to hire anyone my age. I can’t see who the competition is so I don’t know if they have more skills than I do (judging by my skills relative to that of my former coworkers I would say that is not the problem). But recently I was interviewed by an extremely perky 25 year old girl who asked all sorts of canned questions culminating in the dreaded “What animal would you be.” I tried to laugh it off and answered it but I really wanted to punch her in the face.

    Really, I am beginning to understand why the enemies of the United States feel the way they do. The country is run by a bunch of vapid, no class bimbos who never read a single book in their life who really believe that my answer to the animal question is going to determine my culture fit. The whole idea of culture fit is complete BS anyway. I hope to god all these Silicon Valley idiots do what they say they want to do build their own man made island and go live on it. Then hopefully some enterprising dictator (Putin) will drop an atom bomb on it.

    1. Manny

      Pigbitinmad: WINNER

  21. Kimberly

    Average article, nothing insightful or even helpful. What I really found to be pathetic, however, is how you blamed the individual for the employer labeling them as over-qualified.

  22. Kristen Fife

    I take great offense at your characterizations of recruiters as lazy and manipulative as a whole. Many candidates think it is recruiter that make hiring decisions; it isn’t. It is the hiring manager that has the full and final say in whom s/he hires, so don’t pin the blame on recruiters for “knowing who they want to hire”. Our job is to evaluate, qualify and present qualified candidates to the hiring manager, then to act as the “agent of sale” when it comes time to make the offer. And the hiring manager is the one that decides on the final salary, not the recruiter. You should get your facts right before you go lambasting tens of thousands of professionals.

  23. Marie

    I’m so beyond frustrated. The recession changed everything and companies have very fixed policies which don’t make sense as it doesn’t always align to reality. What about special circumstances? Why is it not about being ready and able to work along with being qualified and end it there. But no, if you have all these skills we have to pay you more but what about folks that really need to work or young people who need time to build their careers. I can personally attest to this. I left a job due to a serious stress related illness (shingles) and developed severe anxiety and depression also. I found that working for a large firm on a higher level with more demands became problematic quickly. I resolved to look at smaller companies in lesser roles but each time was looked at as if I was crazy and not once got hired. The jobs weren’ there so people had to interview for others. People became disgruntled when they lost everything and were rejected so many times. Some people were happy to work in lesser roles. Companies even told me “They knew I could walk in right then and do that job really well but I didn’t belong there.” She told me her daughter worked for another organization and I should do that too just because I looked young and pretty. This is a hinderence too because they assume you are too soft or dumb or something. I was young at the time but I’m not your daughter. Then I was told by The CEO that she didn’t want a worm working their way into her company. I was just there to answer phones. They thought oh she’s very talented she’ll have no trouble finding work..but if everyone thinks that way I won’t get hired. I keep getting passed over oh she’ll find something. I needed to work and could work well in smaller roles for smaller firms. They say there is no bias but there is, so I interview with hr but at the end of the day I;m not going to be working with that hr person each day so why does it matter. It matters to the team i’m working with so wtf HR. I’ve given up after at least 6 years. It’s screwed up. I tried for years but finally gave up and now my career is lost. I’ve had so many temp to perm roles but companies were going under so I had to keep looking and they assumed I’m a job hopper. Sometimes I’d work two jobs at once and now my resume just looks scattered. It’s just a piece of paper… Many hr professionals I interviewed with who judged me are no longer in those roles. Just saying.

  24. Abe

    I just want to add my two cents worth here because this morning I woke up to receive yet another email out of countless rejection emails mentioning the company has decided to spend its time on candidates that better fit its needs. I’m interested in non-profit community service work, especially working with the homeless, those (ironically) plagued by under- and unemployment, and affordable housing. I have many years’ experience in each field and multiple degrees, with publications and national talks, in each. I used to do, as this article suggests, my homework on companies–rigorously researching fidelity to the company’s mission statement, administration, culture… I networked on LinkedIn, paid handsomely to have my résumé professionally polished, learned about keywords and how to give my cover letter personal sparkle… But after a certain age, I simply stopped getting any bites. Even in non-profit community service, despite my history working with state and federal agencies and publishing in the field. Imagine my shock that organizations serving the highest needs communities–communities that desperately need qualified people working for them–should cavalierly reject qualified applicants for reasons that have nothing to do with being able to get the job done efficiently.

    Then, needing a job, I began applying for lower and lower wage positions. I removed first one then another degree from my résumé. I applied for positions working with homeless youths, rehabilitative care, HIV education advocacy–all well within my experience. I went back to school, spending thousands on multiple certificates to update my skills–including unpaid internships. Invariably, either I’d hear nothing back from the organizations I applied to or I’d get the generic rejection above. Mind you, I’ve sought feedback politely from hiring managers (I never get any) and paid professional career counselors to review my documents. I’ve even paid two stylists and a social media company to manage my wardrobe, professional online photos, and my online presence. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

    And yes, I’ve addressed succinctly and authentically with even near-minimum-wage positions I’ve applied for the apparent discrepancy between my professional history and the nature of the low-wage jobs I’m applying for. I’ve let agencies know just why I’m passionate about their organization (which I demonstrate deep familiarity with) and their target communities. Doesn’t help.

    I’ve concluded that there is a single underlying problem contributing to the inability of people like me to get jobs. There are simply far too many qualified applicants for every position. This means that employers can hire people they LIKE rather than the most qualified. That’s the soft-variable often categorized as “cultural fit” and it comes dangerously close, too often, to discrimination. And all the online tips about how to get noticed or allay the fears of employers or… cannot address the fundamental supply-demand dynamic. Employers hold all the cards so feel empowered to do whatever they want. Neither degrees nor experience nor personal passion will win you a job if you just happen to be someone who, through no fault of your own, employers don’t like. Just ask the over-40 crowd.

    1. Larry Staley

      Abe – You said it in a nutshell – Too many qualified people applying for two few decent positions! This we have a phony low unemployment number with extremely high underemployment. Fortunately I guess ageism worked in my favor as my wife and I now collecting social security!

  25. KLI

    I look forward to the day when job advice sites stop blaming job hunters for an employers poor judgement.

    1. Jacob Share

      If an employer shows poor judgement in not hiring you, thank them for not getting hired by an employer with poor judgement.

      The reality is that on the one hand, most job hunters never learned how to job hunt. On the other hand, many employers *also* never learned how to hire. Consequence: there will be a lot of poor judgement by employers – to their loss and job hunters’ – but it’s not a job hunter’s job to teach an employer how to hire. It IS a job hunter’s job to teach an employer to hire *them* however, so yes, the onus is first on the job hunter.

  26. gibitinmad

    The reason I don’t apply to the companies with a history of hiring people like me is that they don’t exist. It’s no longer enough to avoid youth oriented industries. Now boring jobs like banks, scholarly publishing and libraries are now only open to YOUTH.

    I pretty much gave up on everything because I absolutely refuse to be a greeter at Walmart.

    1. Michael Lee Branham

      Spot On. Finding a gig that fits you like a glove is like winning the lottery. Best you can do is stay active in the field so you can pay your bills and not get left behind as your skills become dated. If you can do your bosses job he or she will not hire you. Times have changed. Jobs look for the people they need. Not the other way around. If you have a PhD in something you better write a book or two.

  27. Mark

    As long as a person is aware of the job they are applying for, there is no such thing as “over qualified”. If I decide to be a door greeter at Wal-Mart next week (despite my degree in Engineering), that’s my prerogative. Just because you have expertise doesn’t mean you should be required to pursue jobs that match it.

  28. James

    Starting a business is often a very, very bad idea due to the prejudice that employers have with regards to people who’ve ran their own business but want to work again as an employee. People should only start a business if they know it’s going to be successful and/or it’s their passion. It’s a massive risk and in most cases, won’t pay off.

    I’m Master’s Degree educated and have ran a successful internet anti-piracy business for nearly 9 years working for over 20 music labels and distributors on a retained and non-retained basis. One of my clients is the largest independent music distributor in the world. I’ve project managed 10,000 albums and EPs successfully (some world wide Number 1 albums), have 20 extremely glowing client recommendations/testimonials on LinkedIn and as you can imagine, I’ve many transferable project management and account management skills. My business is still profitable although I’m admittedly a one-man band and the most I’ve earnt in a year is $80k.

    However, I’ve lost all passion for the job and want my life back as I even had to take work away with me on my honeymoon. It’s now time for me to close my business because I’m starting to really, really hate what I do and it’s interfering with my personal life far too much.

    As a result, I’ve applied for over 100 Account Management and Project Management jobs recently (not related to anti-piracy). I’ve applied directly and through recruiters and took time to tailor all my applications. Yet, I’ve not a single phone call or acknowledgement by email.

    You’d think someone who’s intelligent, diligent, self-motivated, entrepreneurial etc would be in demand and a person recruiters and employers would want to interview. Not so.

    I’ve applied for jobs that I could easily do and yet…nothing.

    It’s really frustrating and I feel like my career is utterly finished at 37. I feel like I’m on the scrap heap and it’s a pretty depressing place to be.

    1. Larry Staley

      James – 37? Try 68 which is my age!

  29. Matthew

    I am a professional that has had to change employment as a result of a road traffic accident, fought for life to get back, retrained, reskilled, gained employment is changed dyscipline only to have a contract release my employment as the project had overspent.
    I have gained now a suitable duration of employment to fulfil experience amounts.
    I now sit here a tradesman, professional IT engineer and a Masters in post graduate science not knowing where to turn. Job centres for local work do not hold work which I am not too qualified for!! although willing to just work, no matter what it is.
    It is quite ironic that it is heard on the news that our country is crying out for people with my skills but I cannot get work. Any thoughts are most welcome.

  30. Sandy

    I applied for a position that my experience checked all the boxes and even had a letter of recommendation from a C-suite employee along with my resume. My salary range was w/in a conservative range. I was then told I was overqualified and my salary range was too high. When in fact my base salary request was $20k less than the base. What do I need to think about this! This position is still open btw! I am 56 just so you know.

    1. Jacob Share

      You need to let it roll off your back. They’re either lying or not taking you seriously or not good at their job, take your pick, but they’re doing you a favor by signalling that you’re better off not working there.

      Sadly, the fact that a position is listed as open doesn’t mean a heck of a lot:


      Keep your chin up! And focus on companies that have shown they hire people like you.

  31. e

    Really, “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.

    Two things wrong with your statement. Don’t know how others submit their resumes, but I customize mine to match the job description and totally on the recruiter to not interview you if you are “over qualified.” Also had I done my homework… how do you find which employers have ageist cultures?

    1. Jacob Share

      Thanks for your comment and question, e.

      Sadly, most job seekers do not tailor their resumes each time they apply.

      Regarding how to find which employers have ageist cultures, one way that I gave in 💥 How To Defeat Job Search Discrimination Today is:

      take a few minutes or even an hour to search their current employees’ LinkedIn profiles, with an eye to looking for a proven track record of them having already hired people like you.

  32. Jason Spelman

    Is it incorrect to believe that you are too smart for the position you are after?,,,,168 IQ and cannot buy my way into a job at dollar tree…

    1. Jacob Share

      I have yet to see a job description with an IQ requirement although I’m sure there’s one out there somewhere… Smart employers should always aim to hire people as overqualified as possible as long as they can afford them, because they are the most cost-effective hires.

      Ultimately, getting a job is simply about convincing an employer you can do the job they need done. If you can’t find a job, try to understand why you’re unable to do that convincing.

      Are you applying to jobs you’re clearly qualified for?

  33. Ari

    I disagree that if you’re getting passed over for jobs this most likely means you’re applying for the wrong jobs. People need an income to survive. Of course, we would prefer jobs that challenge us and positions we can grow with. However, especially since research corroborates that discriminatory practices like ageism are rampant, many of us simply get to a point where we cannot survive anymore simply targeting “the right jobs.” Pain letters, exhausted social networks, letters targeting key company figures, hired professional resume/portfolio consultants… We’ve read the advice and millions of us are putting the experts’ advice into practice. But none of this guarantees success. In the meantime, we have to live so we have to work. Which brings us right back to where we started–applying for jobs we’re qualified for and amenable to doing.

    As a side note, people might read the copious legal and other social commentary about the ongoing Facebook “cultural fit” hiring discrimination cases. At least wide-spread company hiring discrimination is getting more publicity. Without the courts stepping in, however, I fear little will change as it’s both costly and difficult to bring these suits, let alone to win them.

    1. Jacob Share

      Ari, the point was that you’re applying for the wrong jobs if you’re getting rejected as overqualified. It wasn’t a blanket opinion about every job rejection. Companies aren’t charities; it’s not their purpose to provide an income for people to survive (although they should care very much about their employees, I hope). Ageism is very real, I agree: https://jobmob.co.il/blog/job-search-discrimination/. And you’re right, nothing can guarantee success, you could be a perfect fit for a job and even the recruiter recognizes it but if their budget for the position gets pulled at the last minute, there’s nothing you can do. The best you can do is to put yourself in the best position for success consistently and eventually your efforts will pay off.

  34. Ariel

    At 29 I am aware i am overqualified, despite me having qualifying factors fpr disability, for almost every job on the market. I never learned how to make a schedule. One of my applications had me take a quiz on how to fill a boss’s schedule as their personal assistant/secretary. I passed it with 100%. too easy. It has gotten to the point i have dummed down my skill list to less than 10 skills pertaining to that job, downplayed everything and put 2 jobs that lasted a short time. 62+ hours a week no meal break It hospitalizes you from burnout i would know. in my current area their hiring is mainly race based. Women of color are the most likely to get hired, followed by men of color, white men then white women. If you are a white unmarried woman with self confidence, are seen as overqualified to the point we have become the minority here. the only local job didnt pay me 96% of my pay. it is so bad that when a truck hit me while i was walking in the grass they refused to investigate because it was after 5 pm. All other places kept giving me the run around , the one place told me i was hired and told me to come in tomorrow for training and then not even 15 minutes after leaving i was told not to come in because they didnt have availability. was given the ruun around. you get fired if you are good at what you do. the employers know how good you are once you start working. I needed my lunch break for medical reasons to boot. My store manager for almost 5 years at CVS Cooperate was coming in and were praising me and yelling at him. The heads of CVS came in and said to the store and district managers in front of me Im amazing at my job and i should be making more than 5 dollars than what i was currently as of last year. i was making $11.72 an hour. I would have been making more than the narc. Shift manager store managers rating was a 1-3 on a scale of 1-10. 10 was a perfect score. ti was hitting mostly 9s and 10s. mostly 10s. i got like one 6. i got fired for this.
    If this alone, the fact customers thought me as a speed way clerk was a manager or the 75+ skills and counting on my full skill list doesnt show how overqualified i am, then i dont know what does. I am one of those jack of all trades. me and my boyfriend cant keep living on his paycheck alone especially since i might be pregnant which he thinks i can keep a kid in my room till they are almost 10 because he also wants a room for himself. cps says no. we also want to escape his mentally ill mother with violent tendencies too but cant afford to with $700 every 2 weeks and 2 of up potentially a 3rd. he also wants to buy things that arent necessary. That said overqualified people need an income too. there needs to be more worker protections on this. The fact an entire County is like this is ridiculous. im not walking 3+ hours in one direction to work in th next town over. that would be out past the hospital which is about a 3 hour walk and is in the next town over. we dont have a car either so living without income due to being overqualified is excruciating for me. especially as someone who has for the most part been super independent most of their life. I even agree to work for way less than what i am worth just so i can get hired. Unless new sanctions of protections get put n place i can see this getting way worse in general. not just for me but anybody. It makes me feel so stagnant it isnt even funny. it has become a major annoyance in my life. i also have a spinal injury i got when i was 8 that nobody did anything about. i can easily pass out on the job due to other health conditions. i cant even get disability. it is rediculous i feel sorry for anyone who cant get a job because they are overqualified. we need income to live and survive. that is a fact. if we cant pay for our basic needs then we eventually die. that is basic survival. I was always taught if you have any of the skills that the job requires an employer will hire you if you have more qualifications than the next person. I got passed up by someone who never had a job in their entire life and they are 42. i got passed up for someone with zero skills were the lady said she wanted a job because she was bored and wanted something to do. I had qualifications. i got denied a printing job because i was too young. i had more qualifications than the people who owned the place. i actually had a certificate upon graduation for my training and samples of the projects i worked on. they were maybe in their early-mid 60s. aka it would be a few years but they could use a younger group to come in and take over before couldnt do it anymore. last i heard the partners all passed during covid for one reason or another and the shop has been emptied and has a different business filling the space. a bunch of the others in my class faced similar things. we were trained in graphic design and the usage of printing presses among other areas. im actually under qualified to be a store manager. the closest thing i could get interms of a perfect fit is a management in training or shift leads. that is where most of my skill levels are at. i cant get a perfect fit, cant get something im under or over qualified for either. the sad part is someone in their 20s and 30s are more likely to get booted before a 45+ year old who had a job despite not being able to do their job. the only exception to this rule is if you are a college student. a college student who never shows up for work still has a job after 6 months and gets paid while a non college student of the same age trying to pay bills would get fired for no reason. a person physicallu unable to do a job will get the job before an overqualified person. if you are underqualified or physically unable to do a job you should not be getting the job before someone who can actually do the job. it is sad what the job market has been reduced to. my condolences go out to those who face this struggle.

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