The Case of the Over-qualified Candidate: Ask HR Guy

by | March 10, 2009

I'm not getting called for interviews. Instead, I receive the "I'm sorry, but you're too qualified for this position" response. Just what the heck does that mean? I applied for positions knowing they will either pay lower than what I'm worth or be less challenging than my skill set, just to get a steady pay check. This response doesn't make any sense. Are HR people looking for people who cannot think for themselves, or do they truly want inexperienced people?

Please Advise

Over qualified

OQ:

The "you're overqualified" line is one of the oldest in the book. Companies often use it because it's nicer than saying you are not an ideal candidate. If you've been getting this response, then you have to consider two things. Firstly, you really need to be sure you are prepared for the interview, have spoken to people at the company to get a sense of the culture, and understand what the job really entails. In short, be sure that you are presenting yourself well when you send your resume and cover letter.

Secondly, if the job is for an entry-level position and you have 15 years of experience, you shouldn't be applying for the job because yes, you are overqualified. If you fall into this category, what you can do is contact the HR department, let them know you saw this opportunity, and that although you are overqualified for this particular opening, you really like the firm. Mention that you've researched the company and inquire if there are other opportunities that would be more suitable for your skills. If nothing else is available, you can mention a willingness to work for the firm in the lesser role on a trial basis so that the firm can see how capable you are. This will enable you to get a foot in door, and if things work out, may put you at the front of the line for consideration when something really good opens up. Companies are concerned that overqualified candidates will be bored and want to do things "their way." Additionally, employees must work with others, so employers don't want to hire an employee whose skills are so much more advanced that they will intimidate the new employee's "peers."

Have a question for HR Guy? Write him at hrguy@staff.vault.com.

Filed Under: Job Search


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