What Hiring Managers Ask When You’re Overqualified For A Job

What Hiring Managers Ask When You’re Overqualified For A Job

How many times have you seen a job listing that’s made you say, “Wow, that looks interesting, but I’m way too experienced?” This used to happen to me a lot — especially as I started advancing through the ranks of a sales organisation. This post originally appeared on The Muse.

I wanted to write full-time and I’d let myself daydream by looking at companies hiring entry-level writers. But I never took action because I’d resigned myself to the fact that I had “too much” professional experience to ever be hired.

However, when I became a recruiter, I realised that I was looking at the situation all wrong. There are plenty of things employers discuss when they have got a good, but technically overqualified candidate on their hands. And often, they’re not just asking themselves, “What is the meanest way we can tell this person no?”

Instead, here are a few questions they ask.

1. Is This Person Trying to Make a Career Change?

While you might look at your resume and think that you’re overqualified, the hiring manager won’t necessarily do the same. Why? Let’s say that you’re looking to switch from a marketing job to a finance role; it’s pretty obvious that you’ll have a lot to learn on the job. Sure, you’ve had more professional experience than another candidate applying — but you might still have the exact same industry credentials.

And the fact you’re applying shows that you’re aware of that fact. You can make it clear to hiring managers that you’re actively trying to switch industries by stating your case in the cover letter.

2. Does This Person’s Current Title Accurately Reflect His or Her Role?

One of the biggest surprises to me as a recruiter was this: Many people have titles that look senior on paper, but aren’t indicative of what they’re asked to do on a daily basis. In fact, the biggest mistake I made early on was assuming that every single “manager” role meant that the applicant had a dozen direct reports and made high-level decisions every day. And I learned the lesson the hard way after scheduling some underqualified candidates for phone interviews.

So, what should you take from this? Two things actually. One, that when you’re looking at job openings, you shouldn’t place too much emphasis on titles. Obviously there’s a difference between a senior VP and an intern, but don’t be scared to apply for a role that has junior in the title just because you’ve been out of university for a few years.

The second thing is for anyone who’s worried his or her “senior-level” title will turn a hiring manager off. Use your resume and cover letter to explain what you actually do every day at the office — this information is far more valuable to a recruiter than what your business cards say you do.

3. Will This Person Be Comfortable Reporting to Her Boss?

One thing we tried to figure out when we were considering someone “overqualified” was whether or not the candidate would be OK reporting to person who would be her boss. Because sometimes that meant having a manager with a less senior title than the candidate had in her previous job. Other times, I wondered if the candidate would be comfortable working with a handful of people with the same title — and not managing anyone.

That didn’t necessarily keep me from bringing in someone. But it was something we definitely thought about. If a person made it clear that he or she was not interested in being a team player, we’d pass.

So, not to keep repeating this, use your application materials to make it clear that your current experience won’t hold you back; emphasise that you are a team player and that your ego won’t get in the way of doing your job.

There isn’t an exact science to knowing if you’re overqualified for a job you want. However, there also isn’t a hard and fast recruiting rule that says employers are only allowed to hire people who match every single qualification. It might seem like a waste of time to submit an application if you think a company will pass. But knowing what they discuss will (hopefully) help you take the leap and hopefully land a position that’s perfect for you — title be damned.

3 Questions a Recruiter Will Ask When an Overqualified Person Applies [The Muse]

Photo by Luke Chesser via Unsplash.


  • god I hate all these mind games HR depts come up with to justify their pay.

    What is the god damn point if all the questions asked are double speak and word games, requiring a specific answer! here’s a question, if all these games HR play actually worked, why is there still a HR dept? Everyone hired should be the perfect person and never leave.

    The other day I was talking to a HR bloke that was bragging he’s worked at the same company in HR for 20 years. Must have been crap at his job if he had to be there for 20 years right? His whole point was to hire the best people for the company – and yet he was still working on that after 20 years? Yeah, think I found the problem, and it wasn’t the other employees.

    reminds me of when a new Office Works got built. They had some stupid over paid HR people come down and make us all play silly games all day with group activities. I didn’t get a job. Thing is, I went back 3 months later, only 2 people from the “interview games” were still there. Spoke to the manger about a job, got hired on the spot. At least Office Works worked out it’s a scam ( lots of HR BS isn’t based on science – like hand writing analyzing, power poses etc). I wonder how much money they wasted to pay for a HR company to come in and play games for people that left within three moths.

    Really, only reason I dislike this site is every few months you spout this HR B.S. Like io9 sneaking religious crap into their feed every now and then.

  • All of this discounts the simple fact that – irrespective of an applicant’s motivation to change industries or to take lesser duties for personal reasons – many managers do not want someone smarter or more capable than them.

  • They may be questions they ask themselves, but they never give the “over-qualified” applicant to explain why they want the role, if they would be happy in that role, or how long they would retain it.

    Over-qualified compared to what… the current person in that role! are they qualified to do that job cause they are obviously leaving for reasons not disclosed.

    I applied for a job, got told I didnt get it cause I was over-qualified.
    2 years later I was hired as a temporary contractor for that exact role, under the supervision of the person who got that job instead of me (so technically I was more qualified than my supervisor) and my role was to sort out and clean up the mess from the under-qualification person she replaced who left incomplete work and errors 2 years ago when they said I was over-qualified.

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