What It Really Means to Be ’Overqualified’
It doesn’t make any sense: You work your whole career learning skills and gaining experience, only to one day have a hiring manager say you are “overqualified.”
You wonder what that really means. You meet the qualifications and requirements. How is that a bad thing?
1. They Cannot Understand Why You Want the Job
If the salary doesn’t seem to align with your experience level, or it seems like you may get bored quickly in this role, the hiring manager may call you overqualified. If the hiring manager doesn’t like your answer to the question, “Why do you want to work here?” that may be another reason why they’re calling you overqualified.
To the hiring manager, it makes no sense that you would take a job that seems beneath your abilities. They do not want to hire someone who will be bored and unmotivated because the work is too easy. In these instances, the hiring manager may even feel they are helping you by rejecting you.
2. They Feel Unworthy of Your Talents
Imagine for a moment you run a startup. Your experience is as slim as your budget, and you are learning as you go. You post a job ad for an engineer, and someone who used to work at Google applies. What do you do?
It may be tempting to say you would hire this former Google employee, but in reality, you’d likely find them intimidating. Plus, you wouldn’t be sure you could even afford this person.
If you’re being told you’re overqualified, you may be the ex-Google employee in this situation.
3. They Fear Losing You Too Quickly
A person with great skills and experience is more likely to get poached or leave for a new job. That’s just a fact. These candidates are in demand, so they pretty much have free reign on the job market.
Hiring an employee and getting them up to speed costs a lot of time and money. No employer wants to go through all of that if they feel you’re likely to leave within the year. The risk is greater than the reward in this case.
So, if you’re a highly competent candidate in your field, employers may be labelling you overqualified because they fear you’d leave the job soon after starting.
If you’re a frequent job hopper, you may also be saddled with this label. Employers will look at your past job tenures and wonder if you’ll hop from this role, too.
4. They Fear You Could Be a Lawsuit Risk
Sadly, this happens when less-than-respectable business owners operate in a country with Equal Employment Opportunity laws.
If a company fears you may one day file a lawsuit for any form of discrimination, or if you simply fall into a legally protected class of job candidate, the employer may call you overqualified simply to have a good excuse not to hire you. Another phrase the company may use in this situation is “not a good culture fit.”
Avoiding the ‘Overqualified’ Label
You cannot change what you are, nor can you rewrite your work history. One thing you can do, however, is update your resume. Remove information that could lead to bias in decision-making, such as any photos of you or any information that reveals your age (e.g., graduation dates).
You can also avoid the label by making it clear that your reason for wanting to work at the company is something truly meaningful to you. Explain your experience in terms of how it has helped you work toward achieving your mission in life. Then, explain how this company and its role will help you further or complete your mission in a meaningful way.
Above all, you should never allow your skills to be obstacles to your career progression. You are only limited by the fear that is holding you back!