I’m Afraid You’re Overqualified

After getting through an interview, feeling like you’ve done great, knowing that the position is right for you, and thinking you’ll be the company’s choice, hearing the dreaded phrase, “I’m afraid you’re overqualified”, can be like a punch in the stomach. 

What can you say to that – “no, trust me I’m “underqualified’, really I am  – probably not a good response!  Or how about, ala Goldilocks, I’m “just right” qualified”.   Once someone has deemed you overqualified there isn’t really a response that’s going to change the outcome – you didn’t get the position.   But like any experience, this is one you can learn from.

According to Bonnie Lowe at www.Best-Interview-Strategies.com what you shouldn’t do is dumb down your resume in order not to appear overqualified.   That’s going to backfire on you.  What you should do is address the overqualified issue head-on.   You can do that in your cover letter (if you submit one), or during the interview just put it all on the table.  

Ms. Lowe suggests telling them things like “I’ve always wanted to work for your company [or in this industry], and I’m willing to take a lower-level position to get that opportunity.”   Or,  “The salary is not my top priority. I’d have no problem with earning less than I’ve earned in the past.”   Of course, only say these things if you truly mean them.   She even suggests agreeing to sign a contract that says you will stay in the position for 12 months to let them know how serious you are about your commitment to the company. That may be a little extreme, but if it’s a position you really want, it might show the employer how serious you are about staying put.  And even if they don’t take you up on it, it will make an impression on the hiring manager.

In this economy, I suspect there are lots of us “overqualified” folks out there looking for jobs.  And the reality is, some of us are not going to be hired at our past salary levels.  But if  we find an opportunity we really want to go after,  we have to show those hiring managers that it may not be a bad thing to have a few of us overqualified people in their organization.  If we truly are overqualified, then our job performance should be above and beyond what the usual expectations are from someone in the position.

So on that note I say – Go forth and make all of us that are overqualified proud!


3 thoughts on “I’m Afraid You’re Overqualified”

  1. I have tried replying using the suggestions Ms. Lowe has.
    I was still told that “I would be bored,” and “It would be bad to hire someone over qualified because they would only leave as soon as things got better.” Note that this was for a fairly entry-level job.

    It is becoming very depressing to hear this. It really is just a reason to blatantly discriminate against the currently unemployed and/or older jobseekers. I think recent graduates hear the same in reverse: being called under qualified for entry-level positions that “require” 3-5 years of experience!


    1. I know it gets discouraging! Just hang in there. One response I have heard suggested for the “bored” comment is “busy people don’t get bored, and whatever position I hold, I look for ways to be productive and stay busy.” The “leaving when things get better” argument is a little more difficult to respond to. One response might be “I’ve been unemploye x number of months, so I don’t plan on taking a job and leaving. The job search is not something I want to experience again any time soon.
      Good luck to you. Don’t give up – things will get better!


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