By Dr Eugene Brink
Okay, so you’ve lost your job or you’re just looking for something else and are willing to “start over”.
You have the skills, experience and qualifications and yet, there is one slight problem: You might have these in overabundance.
In short, it means you are overqualified for the job and this might invite some jaundiced looks from recruiters. It’s an embarrassment of riches, but an unfortunate reality in the world of work. “This shouldn’t be a barrier (to employment), but often is,” says Cheryl Santiago, a career transition coach at GetHiredCoach.com.
Right or wrong, there is a multitude of reasons for this, which we will now explore in more depth.
One of the chief reasons you might get tarred with the “overqualified” brush is that the employer is worried that he/she can’t compensate you adequately.
“Before starting a recruitment process, employers usually know roughly how much they can afford to pay the new hire,” Jacob Share, a job search expert. “Having more experience and skills than other candidates, employers recognise 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.”
- Being bored and not sticking around
This is a real concern that even you as the job-seeker should bear in mind. “Hiring managers often think that someone who used to do higher-level or more interesting work can’t possibly be happy with less challenging responsibilities, and they assume that you’ll quickly get bored, then frustrated and then want to leave,” says Alison Green, jobs and management blogger and author.
Recruiters and employers will also make the logical assumption that you were desperate when you applied, but may get itchy once your circumstances improve. Companies like to hire for the future and build their institutional capacity and memory, and someone who is probably not willing to stay might deter them from hiring that person.
- Resistant to teamwork and new experiences
Someone with superior qualifications might turn into a snob, snub co-workers and younger managers and resist fitting in and learning new skills. “Many managers, especially new ones, worry that if they hire someone more experienced, that person will want to do things his/her own way rather than the way the manager wants,” says F. John Reh, contributor at The Balance Careers.
“If you have significantly more experience than the hiring manager, he/she may worry that you won’t be happy or comfortable taking direction from him/her, and that you’ll think you know better. What’s more, if the hiring manager isn’t entirely secure in his/her skills, he/she might worry that you do know better and that you’ll be judging his/her decisions – which can lead to him/her passing on your candidacy altogether,” says Green.
Alison Green, 31 July 2013, “Why employers don’t want to hire overqualified candidates”, https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2013/07/31/why-employers-dont-want-to-hire-overqualified-candidates.
- John Reh, 27 May 2019, “Hiring overqualified workers”, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/should-you-hire-overqualified-workers-2275743.
Jacob Share, 6 April 2017, “9 scary reasons overqualified job seekers are rejected”, https://jobmob.co.il/blog/reasons-overqualified-job-seekers-are-rejected/.
Kate Ashford, 2020, “What to do when you’re told you’re overqualified for a job”, https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/overqualified-for-job-081417.