Are You Overqualified?

by Graham Riley

Are you apparently “over qualified” for the opportunities that you are applying for? Here is an approach that you may wish to consider.


Have you ever been left with the impression that a hiring company tends to reject candidates based upon the candidate being too old, young, tall, short, fat or thin versus a potential shortcoming in their education, training, experience or attitude? First of all, ANY organization that treats you unprofessionally or disrespectfully should raise the critical question “Do I REALLY want to work here?”


While the message of rejection of being over qualified maybe a euphemism for being too old, young, tall, short, fat, thin or whatever; you cannot control the lack of professionalism and integrity of the interviewer. However, if the rationale for the rejection is truly being “over qualified,” in effect the interviewer feels that you would not be happy in the role or the roles compensation is not suitable to your career level, they are simply looking to minimize the expensive cost of staff turnover as soon as something more suitable to your career aspirations comes along.


What can you do to address being truly “over qualified”? For these are indeed tough times and you need to be realistic in your expectations of a compensation level similar to what you were accustomed to may need re-thinking given the prevailing economic conditions of supply and demand.


The biggest issues facing ALL organizations today is PROFITABILITY  By focusing on the value you would deliver to a hiring organization if you were hired, such as how you would impact the bottom line, then you take away the true definition of being over qualified.


To illustrate the point, let’s see if you could imagine the interviewer saying: “Mr. Smith, I am afraid that you are over qualified in generating profits for your employer. You simply produce too much revenue or you are far too effective in streamlining operations and workflow to minimize costs!”


If you can clearly articulate your value in dollars and cents and show via your resume how you have been instrumental in solving the profitability problem for your previous employers, then you will be sought out and secure an opportunity in a timely manner.


Please do not think that you did not help with profitability in previous roles. If you received a salary or wage then you contributed to profitability either via revenue generation or cost containment in some way. For if you truly did not contribute then you did not have a job – you had a hobby and the money you received was a charity gift!


So let us just remind ourselves of what the word “value” actually means to the hiring manager. The dictionary provides us with 18 definitions. From the multiple definitions of the word, the THREE common elements for at least eight of those definitions are monetary, worth, represented by a figure.


Now go and look at your resume.


Is there a clear statement of your “value” measured in dollars, represented by a figure?


Graham Riley ( is the President and CEO of Back-2-Work, which offers job support services and career counseling.


5 thoughts on “Are You Overqualified?

  1. Jeff Hobson October 24, 2012 / 3:34 pm

    I was taught to seek the interview, then sell yourself at the interview by rehearsing answers to the questions that the interviewer would likely ask.


  2. Blanche C October 22, 2012 / 11:28 am

    This is an awesome post at this time for anyone over a certain age, because I am sure we have all experienced these words. When I was recruiting, the reason was usually that the individual would leave as soon as they found a job more aligned with their previous position and salary. Boredom was also a consideration.  
    I would discuss my value in my cover letter. The company is getting someone who can fill many rolls for the same price they would pay for someone with less experience.  The is value.  After I asked the question if they could see me in the roll or if there were any issues I could address after the interview was over and the interviewer told me this, I would explain as follows:  I have been looking for a job for XX months and the right job has not come my way. I would be committed to this job as I was to my former employer. Moreover, I do not believe that during this 3 month project, I will be offered a position that would take me away from this contract position. This poition offers me  _, _ and _.  We would mutually benefit from my working in this position. I would remind the recruiter of the jobs I have at the moment and explain how I give each job 125% as I give every job I perform. 
    I have also read that recruiters are subconsciously looking for people with potential. I have begun to us that term in all of my communications.  I explain the potential I possess and my desire to grow and learn within the company. I would use some of the company's values which usually contain something about employee growth and learning. I would then explain how my years of experience are an advantage as a backup within the team to be used as necessary (I don't want to be pushy).    I explain how I have stayed current in my field and how I have even taken extra steps to learn new things. With all of the above, I continue to face this invisible brick wall.  All I want to do is work to support my family and it just boggles the mind why a company, which would pay me or the same as someone with less experience the same amount of money not take advantage of my experience, knowledge and positive attitude.  When I was working, I found this to be a win-win. In fact, I liked hiring someone like me because they were the most appreciative workers and always seemed to give that 110% because if there was an opening, they wanted to be hired. The individuals tended to have more pratical common sense and a work ethic not always found in others – of course I do not want to generalize because there are always exceptions, but……


  3. Jack Henrie October 22, 2012 / 11:08 am

    This is a great article, Graham.  Thanks for passing it along, Dr. LaReau.  I believe that I do a fairly good job of stating my value in my resume having added at least a half billion dollars to stakeholder wealth while increasing cash flows by over $250 million.  However, in the current economy, I am still rarely getting to the interview because I have been an executive industry generalist, so I do not have five years of executive experience in healthcare or education or ten years executive experience in energy or manufacturing.  When these are the required criteria and phone calls are discouraged, what do you suggest?


  4. Lloyd October 21, 2012 / 5:31 am

    Unfortunately, you are putting the "cart before the horse".  You have not focused on being
    able to get the INTERVIEW. Acknowledging you will have to accept lower compensation when applying to position that is a step below your experience, you can't even get through the door to demonstrate how your experience can help their bottom line.


  5. Christine Karel October 19, 2012 / 1:21 am

    Great information here Graham; thanks for sharing!  The old way of doing things, such as; find a job posting, send your resume, conduct an interview, and get hired are long gone.  In today’s economy hiring mangers and organizations are using a variety of tools and resources to assure their getting the best fit for the job and their organization.   It’s up to the job seeker to be able to clearly align their skills and services to the organizations needs.
    Graham hit the nail on the head here!


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