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Anyone who has spent any time looking for a job understands the disappointment of being rejected by a potential employer. Unfortunately, almost all of us will experience job search rejection at some point in our lives. For overqualified job seekers, however, that rejection can be even more depressing. After all, why would an employer decide to not hire you based on your abundance of qualifications? As it turns out, there are many reasons for such rejections.


Can You Be Overqualified for a Job?

Some people wonder whether it’s even possible to be truly overqualified for a job. The reality is that the answer is probably no. Sure, you can have qualifications that far exceed those the job actually requires.

But does that mean that you’re overqualified? Technically, no. That extra level of qualification is impressive, but there’s really no such thing as having too much knowledge or experience. If there were, we would all stop learning once we achieved competence in our job roles.

Nevertheless, there is a perception that some people are overqualified for certain positions. Moreover, some job seekers consider themselves overqualified for those jobs.

Perception and beliefs can play a huge role in how you interview for a job and how hiring managers respond to your presentation. And since most people accept the idea that overqualified job seekers exist, many employers may cite it as a reason not to hire you.

With that noted, here are the top 12 reasons overqualified job seekers are rejected, and some tips to help you avoid that fate.



Overqualified for a job



Top 12 Reasons Overqualified Job Seekers Are Rejected


#1 – The employer may believe that you won’t stick around.

If you are overqualified for a job, the employer may wonder whether you’re just looking for a short-term position. He or she may assume that the company is just a stepping-stone to a better job. After all, your qualifications mean that you have a lot of opportunities for better jobs.

Few employers want to take the chance that they’re investing in somebody who’s going to leave in six months or a year.


#2 – The company’s concerned about being able to meet your salary expectations.

The more qualified you are, the greater your potential earnings. Employers know that and are always concerned about being able to meet expectations. For overqualified job seekers, this can be problematic.

That potential employer may just assume that your salary expectations are more than they can bear. Unfortunately, they won’t usually tell you about those concerns, and may just reject you based on their assumptions.


#3 – Employers often worry that overqualified job seekers won’t do certain tasks.

There’s also a chance that the employer might believe that you won’t be willing to do anything the company needs. That happens with some highly qualified people, as they often think that their time is best spent on the most important tasks. Rather than take a chance, companies will sometimes reject overqualified job seekers out-of-hand.


#4 – The employer may be worried about having you supervised by younger managers.

Truly overqualified job seekers tend to be a bit older and more experienced. When leadership and management are younger, they often think twice before hiring older workers. Many young leaders are leery about trying to manage people with more experience and assume that it will be more difficult to get the buy-in they need from those workers.


#5 -The company could believe that you will get bored.

Overqualified job seekers can even be rejected simply because the company thinks that the work will bore them. Job engagement is critical for productivity, so if an employer thinks you will be bored, you probably won’t get hired.


#6 – Your expertise could be viewed as a threat to existing management.

Despite their positions of authority, many managers and leaders lack self-confidence. Overqualified job seekers may seem like a potential threat to their credibility or power.

This often happens when you are so qualified that the company’s managers can easily envision you replacing them. If that’s the case, then chances are that they will reject you to protect their positions.


#7 – Some hiring managers may be too lazy to ask questions that could allay those concerns.

While most of these concerns could be allayed by discussing them in an interview, that doesn’t always happen. In fact, some hiring managers are simply too lazy to delve into these issues. It’s easier to just reject your application without giving you an opportunity to address the worries.


#8 – There may be favoritism at play, and you were never really being seriously considered for the job.

There are also times when the decision was made before you even submitted your resume. If the hiring manager or recruiter already knows who they want to hire, consideration of your resume may be just a formality.

This generally occurs in companies where internal policies require a thorough job search. In those instances, managers just go through the motions to fulfill their duty. You don’t really have a chance at winning the job.


#9- You may have had a poor interview that failed to impress.

It could be that you’re at fault for the rejection. Overqualified job seekers can sometimes present themselves as arrogant and overconfident. Or you may be too demanding. If your qualifications lead you to interview badly, that hiring manager is likely to reject your candidacy.


#10 – You may not really be overqualified, but the hiring manager uses that excuse to avoid the real reason.

There are even cases where you may not be overqualified. There could be any number of other reasons your resume is rejected. Some of them may even be questionable, which could cause the hiring manager to describe you as overqualified – as a way to hide the real motivation for rejecting your application.


#11 – Being Overqualified for a Job and Discrimination

You may wonder about how rejection based on being overqualified plays from a legal standpoint. Is it illegal to discriminate? Like most legal questions, this one depends on the circumstances and nature of the discrimination.

For example, you may have a legal case if you are rejected and can demonstrate that it was due to your gender, age, race, or other protected characteristics. However, if you are rejected simply because your qualifications don’t align with the company’s expressed needs, chances are that you will face an uphill battle if you try to seek legal remedy.


#12 – Getting Along With Colleagues 

Many hiring managers also worry that those who are overqualified may have difficulty working alongside their colleagues.


What to Do When You’re Overqualified for a Job


The good news is that overqualified job seekers can generally avoid this rejection. The following tips can help:

  • Check your attitude. You never want to leave the impression that you’re too good for the job. Don’t make it sound like it’s an easy role for you to fill. Instead, express genuine excitement about the opportunity to take on a new and different challenge and contribute to the company’s success.
  • Use your cover letter to explain why you want the position. Don’t expect the hiring manager to read your mind, since that can lead to all manner of faulty assumptions.
  • Explain why the company’s job matches your lifestyle and priorities. That can help to put their mind at ease.
  • Don’t broadcast unnecessary qualifications. If, for example, your advanced degree might seem to make you overqualified, omit it. Focus your resume and interview on relevant skills and experiences. You want to be qualified – not overqualified.
  • Do some research and locate companies that hire people with your qualifications. Choose companies that are not averse to hiring overqualified job seekers. Sometimes, that can make all the difference in the world.


Overqualified job seekers may struggle to avoid rejection, but it’s not an impossible task. Learn to recognize why you might be rejected and work to address those employer concerns as best you can. And remember, persistence pays off in the end.


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