It’s a frustrating experience to be told you’re overqualified for a job. You worked hard to build your résumé and thought it would lead you to an easier job search, yet you find yourself being rejected when you clearly meet all the requirements. In fact, it turns out that you have too many skills according to the recruiter or hiring manager.

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While it’s disappointing in the moment, learning that you are overqualified can motivate you to target jobs that offer the responsibility level and salary you deserve. Whenever possible, seek out positions that require your full capabilities or stretch you to develop new ones.

However, there may be times when you want or need to secure a job for which you appear to be overqualified, or a company claims you’re overqualified when you truly believe you are not.

If you’re in that position today, here are the real reasons that candidates are told they are overqualified, along with tips on how to best respond and move forward with your search.


Reason #1: The company can’t pay you what you are worth

Sometimes a candidate is told they are overqualified simply because the company hopes to fill the position with someone less experienced and therefore willing to agree to make less than what the job should pay.

It isn’t that you are overqualified, it’s that they plan to hire someone that is underqualified.

Most recruiters won’t tell you this. Instead, they leave you reading the job description over and over again, wondering how it could be that you are overqualified, when you seem to meet the requirements exactly.


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Jobs like this are not worth your time; you should simply move on. If you managed to talk the company into giving you the offer anyway, not only would you make less money, your skills may continue to be unappreciated once you joined their team.


Job satisfaction takes more than fair compensation, but be aware that pay philosophies often signal a company’s priorities. If the company doesn’t want to pay for top talent, they may not value their people as much as they say they do.

Reason #2: They worry you’ll be a flight risk

Though not always true, this is the most common reason given by employers for why they perceive an overqualified candidate to be an issue.

The company worries you will quickly become dissatisfied with the job or the pay and will quit as soon as something better comes along. They fear that they will invest time and money into your onboarding only to have to recruit your replacement in short order.

The best way to counter this objection is to be proactive about bringing up the fact that you might appear overqualified. When addressed early enough, you may have the opportunity to stop this negative belief from forming.

If you need to target a role you previously held because you realize you like that work more or because you want to take a step back to find better work-life balance, explain that as soon as possible. Don’t wait until they make a decision, by then you are unlikely to change their minds.

Reason #3: It’s a dead-end job

Two categories that are frequently accessed when selecting the right candidate are skills and temperament. While your skills may be a perfect match, your desire for advancement may be misaligned with what this job can offer.

Not everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder and many people are content working in a job that won’t lead to the next level.

When you signal that you are motivated and ambitious, you also let a company know that you will continue to crave increasing challenges and expect career growth. Your temperament regarding advancement can come across through your résumé, but it is especially apparent during interviews.

Sometimes when a company tells you that you are overqualified, what they are really saying is that this job won’t meet your expectation for career growth.

These will be the situations when the company is most likely to follow through with keeping in touch and considering you for other roles down the line. Stay in contact with the recruiter or hiring manager and reach out in a few months (assuming you are still looking) to see if any roles with greater growth potential have opened.

Reason #4: The hiring manager views you as competition

Nobody wants to feel like they could be easily replaced. If your experience is too close to or even surpasses that of your potential boss, there’s a good chance you won’t get the job.

The exception to this is when a company is intentionally looking to hire someone that can step into a higher role within a short time frame. However, you can’t tell in advance which hiring managers want a succession candidate and which ones will be intimidated by your background.

Regardless, always err on the side of expressing your fullest capabilities. In the best case scenario, you’ll position yourself for a quick promotion; the worst case scenario is that you miss out on working for a boss that would have viewed you as competition and likely made your working relationship uncomfortable. You win either way.

Reason #5: You are experiencing age-discrimination

If you are applying to jobs that require you to use most if not all of your professional skillset, you aren’t overqualified. Being overqualified is a function of having additional capabilities that would clearly position you for a higher-level role.

Simply having more years of employment than the job’s minimum requirements isn’t a reason to disqualify a candidate; that’s age discrimination. The recruiter or hiring manager may picture the ideal candidate being in a particular age demographic and is ruling you out because you don’t fit that image, not because you can’t do or wouldn’t be happy in the job they have to offer.

While you can avoid job search mistakes that draw attention to your age, there isn’t much you can say to overcome a company’s bias and discriminatory practices. Just know that you are indeed qualified and try not to let the experience derail your momentum; keep looking for a job that will value your skillset.

More often than not, you dodge a bullet when you are told you are overqualified for a job. This excuse is too frequently used to justify bad work cultures and management practices. Before pressing a recruiter or hiring manager to reconsider your candidacy, be sure to reevaluate if you really want that job after all.

Kourtney Whitehead is a career expert and author of Working Whole. You can learn more about her work atSimply Service.

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I’ve spent my career helping people reach their work goals, from executive searches to counseling to career coaching, through my leadership positions at top executive recruiting firms and consulting companies. I currently work to advise senior industry leaders at Fortune 500 companies on making career transitions and securing board placements. My site, SimplyService.org, is an online community supporting the creation of a values-driven work life. I hold a master’s degree in education and human development from George Washington University and am a frequent speaker and podcast guest on the topics of careers and fulfillment. My new book, Working Whole, shares how to unite spiritual and work life.