Have You Been Told You’re Overqualified? How To Avoid Being Rejected.

Most people that have conducted a job search have heard the dreaded, “Sorry, but you’re overqualified.” This is a very common reason given when rejecting a person’s candidacy for an open position. If dealing with a company that responds to all applications, it can happen right after a resume is submitted. A lot of candidates ask me if this reason is really true, or if there’s more to it. That’s not an easy question to answer because, frankly, sometimes it’s true and sometimes it’s not. There are a number of reasons for this response, some of them being what I like to call “operator error!”


I’ve written about discriminatory information on resumes which can, and does, preclude people from getting an interview. It’s important to start right at the beginning to make sure your resume contains just enough of the right information to pique the interest of potential employers.

If you’ve made the first cut (resume review), there are things that you need to pay attention to. There are legitimate reasons, from an employer’s point of view, that can land you in the overqualified pile. Let’s look at them.

  • Will you be a long-term employee? There are two areas to focus on with this question, both of them being whether or not someone will be a long-term employee. One is that the closer a person is to retirement, the more concerned an employer “may” be about how long they’ll stay! It’s critical that employers don’t get a sense that someone is looking for their last “short” hurrah before retirement. The other is the concern about being used as a stepping stone … will a person leave as soon as a better offer comes along? Depending on the job, there’s a lot of training that goes into bringing on a new hire (regardless of where they are in their career). New hires can be very costly in the time and resources dedicated to training. 
  • Are you making too much money? A lot of people have a hard time with this one. Many seem to think that potential employers are deliberately out to undercut them on salary. For the most part, this isn’t true. Organizations with good HR departments are very diligent about keeping salaries at “fair market value.” There are two things they look at; 1) “external equity” — they research other competitive pay structures; and 2) “internal equity” — they try to ensure fairness in compensation for employees working similar jobs. So in this case, if you’re making above “fair market value,” or have tried to inflate your salary to get a better offer, you may get the “overqualified” rejection.
  • Will you be challenged in the position? If a potential employer gets a sense that the duties and responsibilities will not be stimulating enough (you’ll get bored), then you will be considered overqualified. It won’t matter if you’re willing to do whatever it takes because it goes back to our first bullet point above … can they keep you long-term? So, unless they are bringing you on with a mutual understanding of quickly moving you into more progressive roles, I’m afraid your chances of landing this type of position are slim to none!
  • Are you applying for the wrong jobs? This is something that happens far too often. It can be very tempting, especially for those not working, to apply for anything and everything that looks remotely interesting. This isn’t good for anyone. First of all, it sets the stage for the disappointment that comes with inevitable rejection. Additionally, this kind of approach to a job search over taxes recruiters (internal and external) who are trying to ensure the right fit for job seekers and employers alike.
  • Are you presenting yourself professionally? This is where many might get the “overqualified” response simply because it’s the nicest way to reject someone’s candidacy. I always try to counsel people about presentation. It’s one of the most important aspects of the job search. Presentation begins with your resume and ends with your interview follow up.
  • Other reasons! All kinds of things can go wrong in the interview process. Confidence can come across as arrogance … it’s a very fine line. Confidence is good, arrogance is very bad. Also, being knowledgeable can come across as being a know it all. When people get nervous, they tend to drone on and on offering way more information than interviewers are seeking (nervous on an interview). There are many more things that can land someone in the “overqualified” file … low energy, not knowing what they’re talking about, no chemistry with the interviewer, appearing unreliable, not a cultural fit, etc.

CONCLUSION:  Do your research before applying for a position. Make sure you understand the size of the organization, its culture, the salary range for the position / area, the background of the HR person to whom you are applying, etc. Look up the company online, get a good feel for the department and see if you can find the name of the manager. Research them as well. All of this is a good rule of thumb BEFORE your application preparation. Each submission should be unique to a particular opportunity. Doing your due diligence pays huge dividends in the way of more “quality” interviews!



Do you have career or life questions?
If so, comment below and I’ll be happy to respond!



 Do you have career or life questions?

If so, comment below and I’ll be happy to respond!


Thanks for sharing your time with me and reading my BLOG!

Warm regards…. Debra

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