When employers say you're overqualified

Image via Adobe Stock

Here’s what prospective employers mean by ‘you’re overqualified’

Being told you’re overqualified can feel like someone dumping you for being too amazing.

When employers say you're overqualified

Image via Adobe Stock

The words “you’re overqualified” can be daunting and just plain confusing. We’re told to study and be the best so that once done, we’ll have a good life. 

However, in many cases, you graduate and happily trot over to your desired place of work just to be told that “you’re too good for the job”. Wait, what? What does that even mean? Wasn’t that the intention? 

It is confusing and more than anything, it can be disheartening. That’s why we’ve decoded the meaning to help you on your way. 

Here’s what ‘overqualified’ could mean

According to Liz Ryan from Forbes, “overqualified” can mean “too smart” or “too old” or “so obviously competent that we doubt you’ll be happy in this if we offer it to you”. 

Age discrimination is illegal, but it still happens. If someone is using “overqualified” as code for “too old”, you don’t want to work there anyway.

Sometimes “overqualified” means, “we think you’re going to want too much money”, which is not a good sign in and of itself.

According to money.usnews.com, these are some of the reasons why businesses don’t want to hire “overqualified” individuals: 

  • They can’t pay you enough;
  • You won’t understand what the job entails; 
  • If you take the job, you’ll be bored; 
  • You won’t be happy working for a manager with less experience than you; and
  • You’ll leave as soon as something better comes around. 

Here’s how to beat the blues  

Ryan said a solution to being “overqualified” is to start a consulting business and thinking of yourself as a consultant, rather than a job seeker.

“You are a consultant. You’ve got valuable experience that lots of organisations could use. Sometimes the best way to meet people fast and grow your muscles is to consult alongside your job search. Launching your one-person consulting business will be a great experience in its own right,” she said. 

“You’ll decide what sorts of consulting services to offer, and how to describe them. You’ll price your services and brand yourself as a consultant. You’ll get out of the job-seeker mode and remember what you do well and why people pay you for your services,” she added. 

Discuss being ‘overqualified’ in the interview 

According to thebalancecareers.com, taking the correct approach in interviews is also crucial. Take some time to prepare your response to questions about being overqualified, so you’re ready — all guns blazing.

“During interviews, if the topic of being overqualified comes up, ask for specifics about why the interviewer has that concern; this will allow you to give the best possible response. After all, your interviewer may think you’re overqualified because you have a graduate-level degree, not realising it’s in an unrelated field,” it said.