Are You Overqualified? What Does It Feel Like?

Have you ever had a manager tell you that you’re overqualified? Particularly when it’s said in a negative tone as if the very notion were a bad thing?

For most of us, we might assume that it’s a good thing to be good at our jobs, to want to go over and above and to exceed expectations when it comes to our work…the sad question is: should the “overachievers” dumb-down their work for the underachievers? To make them feel less ostracised? Over the years we’ve grown used to managers giving us the feedback that a candidate was ‘Overqualified,’ so we’ve decided to figure out exactly what they could mean….

  1. They don’t want to pay a candidate what they are worth.

It turns out that while your CV may include all of your degrees and accomplishments, after speaking with you, the hiring managers have determined that you are above their pay grade. You may be intellectually ahead and may have more experience than most of their employees, maybe even the very ones that are conducting the interview. These types of employers are looking to hire someone that will fit right in, not “rock the boat” with their smart suggestions or challenge the way things are being handled in the organisation. You simply bring too much experience and knowledge to the table and they want no part of it. Similarly, we would warn candidates that this type of role might not be stretching enough for them. This is also something to consider.

  1. They can’t pay a candidate what they are worth.

Your CV will probably not include your desired salary on it, but it looks like you have all the qualifications they are looking for. When you get to the part of the interview that tells them how much you are currently making or desire to make, the room goes silent, perhaps even a tumble weed floats by. The potential employer does not want to tell you that they simply can’t afford you. They disguise it by saying you are overqualified when in reality they can’t pay you the salary you are asking because it’s not in the budget. They were hoping you had all this experience and knowledge and were desperate for the job and were willing to get paid much less than your accomplishments require. This has very rarely happened to us because salary checking and discussion with you, the candidate is something we do before sending you off to interview.

  1. The candidate seem like a know-it-all.

During the interview your responses will include a lot of factual data. You are precise and certain as to your knowledge but you elaborate too much. You start going on and on about how things should be done or how you would do them. Instead of creating a connection with the employer you are more lecturing the employer. This is a turn off to the employer and will cause them to label you as “overqualified”. Try and temper this with questions such as, ‘Is that what you’ve found in your organisation?’ To show that you are focussed on their business and not just ‘preaching.’

  1. You don’t fit in with the culture of the organisation.

Your personality does not match with the behavioral characteristics of the employees. You may be a great match for the job description but these days’ employers are looking for employees that can get along with each other, work well together and are on the same page. For example, if the work environment includes a lot of creative thinking and open discussions and you seem reserved and shy then it’s too much work to pull those characteristics out of you and they don’t want to spend the time doing it. Try and research the organisation before attending your interview, get a feel for the culture and it’s people and that way you can figure out if they’re the kind of people you want to work with or if perhaps you won’t fit in.

These reasons may be difficult to digest; however, it is better to have an understanding behind the term “overqualified” so that if you are faced with this situation you are not discouraged.