Why Won’t Employers Hire Overqualified Workers?

Why Won’t Employers Hire Overqualified Workers?

“Why wouldn’t an employer WANT a candidate who is overqualified?”, a Jobfully reader asks. “Wouldn’t they be happy to have someone who was completely competent from day one and readily able to take on more responsibility as needed? Why is being overqualified a bad thing? If I’m willing to work at that level, why does it bother the employer?”

To get the answers from hiring managers’ perspective, we interviewed Kristen Fife, senior recruiter at RealNetworks and Staffing Consultant of the recruiting firm Conquent .   With decades of experience in placing candidates, Kristen gave two top reasons why hiring managers may reject someone who is “overqualified”.

First, they worry the candidate will not stick with the company and position. “Usually when someone is overqualified, the biggest concern from a hiring manager’s standpoint is whether they are going to stick around until the market upturn and then leave in search of greener pastures.” Kristen says that trying to convince a potential employer that you will stick around long term is usually ineffective.  She says they are also worried about whether they will be able to keep an overqualified worker challenged, create a career path for them and give them the opportunity to grow.

The second reason, according to Kristen, is that a hiring manager with significantly less experience is likely to feel uncomfortable managing someone who has so much more experience.  She recommends this for highly experienced workers to help the hiring manager feel more comfortable: “Be very tacit. Don’t offer a ton of advice.  Let them learn, but don’t offer unwanted advice or anecdotes. They may ask for suggestions and it’s perfectly OK, when asked, to give suggestions that are not over the top.  Say ‘What if we’ as opposed to ‘When I did this’.  Put it more as a suggestion than ‘this is how we did it and these are our results’.  Let the (less experienced) person understand you want to help and have ideas.  But don’t establish yourself as an expert on something that will threaten them.”

Kristen has three suggestions for getting in the door for an interview when you are overqualified:

  • Customize your resume to the least common denominator of the job description. Highlight relevant experience. Talk about yourself at the level to which you are applying.
  • Do not date yourself. List only the last 7-10 years of work experience, and only relevant experience.
  • Stick to a position that is as close as possible to what you’re doing now. It’s difficult to get a position you haven’t had for the last 5-10 years, even if it’s at a much lower level.

If you are often told you are overqualified, Kristen suggests a different direction:

  • Try a new career. Take a sideways step into something different, yet related, to what you were doing.
  • Become a consultant. Teach classes. Have other people pay you for your expertise.

So what is a highly qualified applicant to do? There ways to overcome these objections. Next week, we’ll talk about action plans to overcome “being overqualified.”

More on overcoming the label of overqualified from Jobfully:

You’re Overqualified: What are They Really Saying?

Overqualified: Addressing the Real Concerns

Turning Your Qualifications into Advantages

Tell us what you think: Is an overqualified worker a good deal for an employer or too big a risk? Have you ever taken a job you’re overqualified for, or worked with someone who was overqualified? How did it work out?

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5 thoughts on “Why Won’t Employers Hire Overqualified Workers?

  1. Gooday!!

    I was an ex abroad from Middle East ,i worked there as a Sales Executive cum Showroom in Charge , i am undergraduate of four year course of Bachelor of Computer Science yet i end up in working in a restaurant, i went to Middle East and given a chance to work as a Sales Executive because of my skills and performance i get promotion to be the Sales Supervisor which reflect on my Resumae, am here in the Philippines now to look for a job . i applied in Cebuana Luiller Pawnshop as a Branch Personnel they i went for an interview and examination i passed it , the time the area manager intervied me i know i answer his question properly ar the best of my knowledge . but when i make follow up with them the manager inform me on my mail that “your application is with HR already they will inform you once their is an opening coz right now your over qualified for the present position.” i replied on their email concerning if about the salary am willing to accept the minimum wages and make adjustment on the new environment i have now. dont you think its a right thing that i send them back a message or what possible advice u can give to me ,.

    thanks and more power!!

  2. EX Dubai,

    If the employers can’t see how their position fit your career goals, it would easy for them to think you’re overqualified.

    If this position is really something you want, be sure to help your potential employer see what value you would bring, why you would succeed in this role and how it matches your career goals.

    Hope this helps.


  3. i am 64 worked in homeless shelters for 36 years case manager job developer housing specilaist
    lost my last job to my age my salary and my work experience
    i have been on 97 intervires in everything you can imagine and still i am told i am over qualified
    also went to work force one they do not help the counselors never return your call or give you a job far from whereu live and never give you a responce wht do it do can someoen help me please

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