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  • Writer's pictureBetsy Kent

WHY YOU WON’T GET HIRED IF YOU’RE OVERQUALIFIED



I had a consult call with a prospective client the other day. He was frustrated in his job search because he was just rejected for a job he was overqualified for.


He thought that if he couldn’t get that job, he should throw in the towel and try to completely change his career path.


Now don’t misunderstand, I’m all for pivoting. I, myself, have gone from attorney to coach with at least 4 or 5 intervening stops on the career train.


But, I don’t think you should pivot because you are frustrated, angry or running away from rejection.


He made a classic mistake when assessing his situation.


I encouraged him to look at his situation more calmly. He actually really wanted to work in his chosen industry and was disappointed to change course. He really just wanted to shift his role to something more creative. He took his previous job because it was a “foot in the door” in a notoriously competitive industry, but he didn’t really like it.


I asked him how excited he was about the job he was rejected from? “Not at all”, he said.


He had years more experience than they were asking for, so it was probably not very challenging, and the pay was less than what he had been making before he was laid off. In fact, they informed him, mid application process, that the role was going from full time to a 6 month contract role. He thought he had to say it was all fine in order to get the role.


So what happened? Why didn’t they hire him? Why wasn’t he the bargain of the century for them?


What happened was that my prospective client most certainly couldn’t express any authentic excitement about the role, maybe he even had an air of entitlement about it and didn’t feel the necessity to specifically and compellingly show what he could bring to the table.


On top of that, the company probably realized that he was overqualified and was just trying to land any old job and probably wasn’t invested in doing his best or growing in the role. They probably assumed that he would leave as soon as something better came along.


From this perspective - the company actually made the right decision. They didn’t hire someone who wasn’t excited about the job and invested in growing in that role.


Companies don’t necessarily hire the people with the best skills. They hire people who don’t pose a retention risk, who seem genuinely excited to learn and grow with a role and who feel happy to have the opportunity.


Of course, every hire needs to have a minimum viable level of experience or skill for the role, but companies are people. And people like people who are excited about them and what they are going to do together.


They are more likely to be willing to train someone they like than to hire an expert that they don’t trust.


The lesson here is that you should go for roles where you ARE NOT OVERQUALIFIED, but rather, have a reasonable level of experience with the core requirements and responsibilities, but where you can also show:

  1. that you are excited to learn and grow in the role,

  2. how you are aligned with the industry, the company mission and/or the culture

  3. that you bring value to the role by virtue of your soft skills, your previous unrelated experiences, your natural strengths, and your personal values.


My advice for this prospective client?

  • Stop applying for jobs you don’t want.

  • Stop applying for jobs that you are overqualified for.


Apply for the ones that excite you and find a way to show how your previous roles will enhance your ability to up-level and grow in the role you are applying for.


If you need to prove you can do a job for which you have little or no experience, then start learning and find ways to show what you are learning.


Please don’t apply to jobs that don't move you forward in your career in an exciting and compelling way.


It isn’t good for you. It isn’t good for the company.


AND - IT DOESN’T WORK.


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