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Read this before passing on an “overqualified” candidate

There are a lot of blogs espousing tips to get the candidate without experience hired, but we rarely see support for the candidate with “too much” experience.

Rejection is part of the game when job hunting, and it’s not fun no matter what the reason—if you are lucky enough to even get feedback. But when rejection comes because you’re overqualified, it’s a special kind of kick in the teeth. ‘Cause what the hell does overqualified mean anyway?

You have a proven record of getting the job done, you’re available and willing, you come with golden nuggets of industry information, and yet you’re turned down. Maybe, MAYBE, it has more to do with the hiring manager or company than with you.

Here are some of the usual reasons why employers hit you with the overqualified cop out:

1. You cost too much

While employers want top talent, they’re not always willing to pay for it. “Overqualified” more often than not boils down to affordability. Before the recruitment process begins, budgets pretty much dictate how much a company can or will pay a new hire. Your extra experience and skills are worth more than your less qualified competition. Even though the discussion of salary likely hasn’t come up, you can count on the employer’s perception that your desired salary is higher than their budget. Instead of, ya know, asking you about your pay requirements, they’ll give you the big “overqualified.”

2. You’ll be bored or above the work

A hiring manager is looking for a candidate who is willing to take on all the tasks of a role. Everyone knows that, including you who has applied for the role after reading the job description in all its task-laden glory. The problem here is an unfair misconception that someone who has held higher positions will consider some duties beneath them.

Even when they think you are in fact up for all the responsibilities, if a hiring manager suspects the job is too easy for you they’ll see your tenure go like this: Gets job, gets bored, gets new job elsewhere. If an employer thinks for one second they won’t see a return on their investment or that you’ll go sour and contaminate company culture, you’ll be considered overqualified.

3. Ageism

Surely an employer won’t tell you you’re too old. They don’t want to get sued for violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act after all. Unfortunately, age discrimination still happens—maybe even unbeknownst to the perpetrator. Consider this: your potential boss is younger than you and they’re afraid of how you’ll respond to their authority. If they suspect a power struggle between you and their younger managers, you’re out. It’s easier to not hire you than to see how it goes or admit that the problem is the younger managers or company culture. Plus, “overqualified” doesn’t get them sued.

4. Recruiters drop the ball

We love recruiters. We are recruiters. But the truth is, some recruiters just won’t give you the opportunity to respond to the above concerns (hence our reason for writing this blog). Most won’t get past your resume let alone talk to you about your reasons for wanting a job you seem too experienced for.

Which brings us to another reason for this blog…

The Candidate’s Motivation

Like with all candidates, hiring managers should dig deep to understand what drives a candidate to apply for any role; especially one with less responsibility or compensation.

Recent studies show a high salary ranks at about third among all the factors a job seeker considers. A convenient commute, good work/life balance, and work from home flexibility are becoming as important if not more important than salary alone.

Here are some reasons why the “overqualified” candidate is interested, and possibly a great fit:

1. Better location

An easier commute might not be the reason everyone would downshift their position, but we all have different values. It’s rare location would be the only reason for the change, but it is certainly a significant one.

2. Less responsibility

We’re not sure how many people would come right out and say they want less responsibility. It doesn’t sound great, it has a stigma. But can’t we all relate to a time in our lives when the stresses of bringing home a new baby, or caring for an ailing parent or sick child took a mental and physical toll? Less responsibility sometimes equates to better work/life balance, and in turn can create a more loyal, dedicated employee.

3. Gets their foot in the door

A company’s values and culture can resonate with some candidates so much so that they will take a step down in pay just to be a part of something they’re passionate about. Attracting and securing the best candidates who personify your mission and principles—that’s what it’s all about.

There are countless personal reasons an overqualified candidate might apply for a position. If you think you might be overqualified yet you get far enough to speak to a real person like a recruiter or a hiring manager, directly addressing the issues we laid out instead of letting the employer jump to their own conclusions could be the very thing to ease their mind and land you the job.

If you’re a hiring manager who’s lucky enough to be in the presence of a great candidate with “too much experience,” address the elephant in the room. Ask them their motivation for taking a potential step down in pay or responsibilities. You could have someone on your hands whose input is invaluable, whose advice will pay off, and who will contribute and help with problems outside their official role. What better return on investment is there?