Being turned down for a job is never an ego-building experience, especially when you are turned away for being too inexperienced or lacking necessary skills. But for companies looking to further pare down their list of applicants, denying a candidate for being “overqualified” is also a common tactic. If you’ve been turned down for a job that you thought suited you well but were turned down due to an unacceptable abundance of skills and experience, you may find yourself wondering if the claim is true or just an excuse to narrow down a candidate pool. I mean, would a company really turn down a candidate who could theoretically perform a job faster and more efficiently thanks to well-developed skills and extensive experience?
Being labeled as overqualified can mean a number of things due to the generality of the term and the lack of a concise definition. But here is a list of possible reasons you’ve been judged overqualified and thus left floundering in the job market looking for work that is more “worthy” of your skill level.
• If you have an exorbitant amount of experience for a job that requires only a fraction of that time, the rejection probably comes from your salary requirements. It isn’t that you would be overpaid for your work, but that your well-deserved salary is well above that which has been budgeted for the position.
• Doing the same work for many years can also be seen as a negative if you are attempting to move from a field that is technically stagnant and regulated to one that is less regulated and diverse. “Unlearning” employees is perceived as an expensive and time-consuming activity so the company may be looking for applicants not so entrenched in a single way of performing a set of tasks.
• Your possession of a skill set superior to that necessary for the job for which you are applying may initially seem like an advantage but some employers may fear that they will be unable to offer you a challenge opening up the possibility that you will quickly leave them for more interesting work somewhere else. This line of thinking has been shown to be faulty, yet the mindset remains.
• If you would be one of the most qualified employees at a particular organization, even more so than the hiring manager conducting the interview, you may be perceived as a threat to their own ambitions.
• An illegal, yet regretfully common, means for eliminating candidates is using age as a guide. Though some candidates tend to overstate the use of age in determining their fitness for a job, ageism continues to be a real problem. If you feel you’re being discriminated against due to your age, first make sure your skill set and technological expertise remains relevant to your industry, but don’t accept ageism as an acceptable excuse for disqualification.
So if you feel that you are being classified as overqualified a little too often, how can you sell your skills and experience in an advantageous way? Try to figure out which of the above definitions actually applies to your particular case of over qualification. Make sure your salary expectations are realistic, be sure to be enthusiastic during interviews, and be sure to explain why you want the job to begin with. Next, become more aware of the relevancy of your skills to the jobs for which you are applying and work to become proficient in new technology. Finally, reconsider your options for employment. Your experience may be far more useful in a consulting or contracting role or could be more valuable in interesting emerging markets.
Labeling an applicant as overqualified is a bit of a cop-out and lazy to boot, but you can better approach the label through understanding what it actually means in your case. Once you’ve discovered the underlying cause for the judgment, you can adjust your resume and interviewing tactics to yield fewer job rejections and more lucrative offers.