How to overcome the 'you're over-qualified' rejection


Been told you are too qualified for a job? Our expert recruiter explains the ways to work around this.

On average, most people will have between 10 and 15 jobs during their career.

Transitioning between roles or careers takes effort and there will be times when it feels that effort was a waste of time when an application or interview results in an unsuccessful or regret letter.

Being told you have been unsuccessful with an application or interview is never easy, but what does it mean when you are told by someone you are overqualified for the role? And are there ways you can minimise this?

The overqualified reason can be used for many reasons, uncertainty, fear, concern you would be bored in a role ‘beneath you’ through to employer concerns you will leave once the market picks up. Generally, the actual reason is subjective, and this could be overcome in an interview where you have the opportunity to explain your motivations and interest in the position.

The application

Of course, not everyone who applies for a position can be interviewed, but you can increase the likelihood by doing the following:

  • Ensure your application and resume represents your abilities.
  • Highlight your attributes, accomplishments, achievements and previous successes, rather than previous titles.
  • It is likely you have experience, skills and qualifications that are not relevant to the role you are applying for. Don’t remove all of these from your resume as you risk misrepresenting yourself. Rather, highlight the relevant skills for the new role, and play down some of the others.
  • Use your networks. Do you know anyone within the business, or could you connect with the hiring manager?
  • Call to follow up your application and be prepared to sell your suitability for the role during the call.

The above may all seem like you are selling yourself short on your experience, but a key component of a career change or direction shift is to highlight your transferable skills.

The interview

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Don’t voluntarily provide potential objections to the hiring manager during the application process.  Instead, in the interview:

  • Outline your reasons when asked about your flexibility around salary.
  • Emphasise your potential to add value and the positive attributes you have as an experienced applicant.
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm and commitment in the interview.
  • Be 100 per cent honest in your reasons for wanting the role. For example, if you’re looking for hours that suit your personal situation, you can no longer do FIFO, you simply want to take a step back or this role has always been a lifelong dream, then say so.

If after all of the above, you’ve made it to an interview and your application is still unsuccessful, call or email and ask the hiring manager for additional feedback. You never know, the preferred applicant may not accept and your enthusiasm and interest will not go unnoticed.

Want more information? Connect with our Careers Team.

Written by Gail Rogers

Senior Consultant - Candidate Services & HR Consulting