I was approached by a young man this week after a presentation. His question was – “What do you do when you’re over-qualified for any job available?” He proceeded to tell me he had a Master’s degree in Public Health and had been told in multiple interviews he was “over-qualified.”
Now think about the reality here – In what setting would being “over-qualified” eliminate you from consideration? If my mechanic gets an additional certification will I tell him “I don’t want you working on my car anymore – I’m afraid you’re too smart.” If you show up for a simple physical exam and find out the doctor is a cardiologist will you back off because he’s over-qualified? If you are choosing a massage therapist and discover that one contender has a PhD in anatomy will you eliminate that person? If you need a receptionist with a great personality would you reject the candidate you liked the most if you discovered at the last minute that she had a Masters in English Literature?
As in any of these situations the only justification for telling a person they are “over-qualified” is likely found in this list:
- You are not the ideal candidate we’re looking for
- We don’t think you’d be a team player here
- We don’t like you
- We don’t trust you
- You want too much money
- We think you’re too arrogant and condescending
- We suspect you’ll leave as soon as you find something better
Please hear my gentle counsel – being told you are “too experienced” or “over-qualified” is simply a politically correct way of telling you they aren’t convinced they want you on their team. This statement is a disguise – and a safe way to make it sound like the person is complimenting you. But it doesn’t realistically have anything to do with your qualifications, knowledge, or talent. It’s a meaningless term that protects the company from being candid about the real reason they don’t see you as a good choice. Forget about your degrees — work on interview skills that make people like you, trust you and want to be around you.
Incidentally, the young man who initiated this blog was very defensive that it was purely his brilliance, qualifications and superior ability that made people feel inferior around him and he was helpless to change that reality. I rest my case.