When a Hiring Manager Says “You’re Over Qualified”

It can be difficult to understand the ominous message

Adam Ross Nelson
4 min readJan 21, 2023

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In the context of a job search, it can be difficult to understand the ominous message, “We can’t hire you because you’re over qualified.” After all, shouldn’t being well-qualified be a good thing?

The job search process is often unfair. This “over qualified” message is one more example of how and why the job search process is unfair. For mid- and late-career professionals this message suggests added lack of fairness for multiple reasons.

Unfortunately, in the job market, there can be such a thing as being too qualified. Here are some possible explanations for why a hiring manager might say this to a job seeker.

A Traditional View Of This Message

In many cases it is possible that the employer is concerned that a so-called over qualified candidate will leave the role for a better fit within a short period of time. A recent time I heard this message was from a candidate who heard it shortly after having lost his job. The candidate was highly intelligent and competent. He interviewed well.

Moreover, the candidate had a wealth of experience and could do the employer’s job quite well. But, the employer was concerned that the candidate would quickly become bored with the position and move on to something else.

Over on LinkedIn on comment I read, in gist, was about as follows:

When I am hiring or helping someone with that process my ‘you’re over qualified’ thoughts are more equivalent to ‘I don’t like training people.’ ‘If I hire you and you leave I’ll have to train a new replacement much sooner than I’d rather.’

The Potential For Discrimination

The potential for discrimination is an important point. Because of having worked longer, older candidates may be more likely to hear “over qualified” when the employer might really be thinking “too old.” If an employer passes on a candidate merely because of age, that employer would potentially be responsible for illegal discrimination.

For Folks Looking To Transition To Data Science

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Adam Ross Nelson

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