What Does the Term “Overqualified” mean Anyway?


Imagine, you get a call for a position you’ve applied for and during your interview you are told “you are overqualified”. Then you wonder, “What does that mean?” Well let me enlighten you. Being overqualified is code for the following reasons:

1.       They don’t want to pay you what you are worth.

It turns out that while your résumé 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 gifted 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 organization. You simply bring too much experience and knowledge to the table and they want no part of it.

2.      They can’t pay you what you are worth.

Your résumé will not likely 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 gets silent. The 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.

3.     You seem like a know-it-all.

During the interview your responses 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”.

4.    You don’t fit in with the culture of the organization.

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.

These reasons may be difficult to digest; however, it is important to have an understanding so when you are faced with this situation you are not discouraged. Your accomplishments should be recognized and appreciated because you have worked hard to achieve them. The term “overqualified” shouldn’t dissuade you from seeking great opportunities; it should teach you that not every organization that seems like the right fit is the right fit.

All the best,

Mary V. Davids

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About Mary Davids

Mary V. Davids is Principal Consultant at D&M Consulting Services, LLC., and creator of the Honest Model™. Mary has over a decade of experience in cultivating employee engagement, enhancing workplace performance, career coaching, leadership coaching and training & development. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management. To connect with Mary, you can follow her on twitter @MVDavids or you can email her at maryd@dm-professiona.com
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5 Responses to What Does the Term “Overqualified” mean Anyway?

  1. Spot on with your observations. “Over qualified” is a cliché that in some cases point to the preference of many to maintain the status quo, particularly if there is the element of threat involved. I am sure that being qualified in a number of skill sets and competencies, an organization would benefit largely from honing in on that talent. On the issue of compensation, wouldn’t it be up to the parties involved to make the decision on what would be a competitive basis for salary and benefits? The fear that the person may leave if the right opportunity exists elsewhere is a risk that will not go if the alternative is “under qualified”.

  2. Farah Davids says:

    WOW! Mary I love this! so insightful, so needed, I can especially relate to this article as I have been told this a time or two. I will spread the word!!! So proud of you!!! Ok, I’m inspired, blog on the way!! Keep up the good work!! Job well done!

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