You’re over qualified.
The position is too junior for you.
I’m sure pretty much all of us have heard one of these pitiful rejection phrases from an interviewer at least once in our lives.
But what do they REALLY mean? Are we ever over qualified for anything that we actually want to do?
I once went for an interview at a well known insurance company in the City. At the time I was working for a well known investment bank in Canary Wharf and was pretty desperate to get out. My lack of work/life balance was making me ill and I wanted something a little lower profile.
I’d explained this to the recruitment agency and they happily put me forward for this team assistant role. The hiring manager had looked at my CV, and asked to see me, so off I went after work to my interview.
It was clear to both of us that I could do the job standing on my head. I’d made it clear that I was keen, gave her my very best handshake, and went home.
The next day I was waiting anxiously for some feedback, only to be told that I was over qualified for the role. What did that even mean? The highest level of qualification I had was 4 AS levels from college, which I had included on my CV. At the interview I hadn’t really told them much else about myself over and above what was written down.
I wish now that I had gone back directly and asked what else they wanted of me. What it would have taken for me to be accepted for the role. I’ll never know for sure. But I can make an educated guess.
I was unfavourably judged based on what they thought I wanted. They thought I wanted bigger and better things and would up and leave them as soon as something better came along. But that’s just it. I only interviewed at the places that I actually wanted to work. This job WAS the bigger and better thing than what I had at the time. The bigger and better thing being getting my life back. Not having to ask to leave early when I wanted to go home at 6pm. Not getting myself into such a stressed state that I cried on the platform at Liverpool Street when my train home was cancelled.
So how acceptable is it, when asked why you want the position, to say that you want something lower profile than your current role. That you want a job that isn’t going to keep you up at night or have you worrying all Sunday afternoon about. That you want LESS responsibility, not more. What interviewer would listen to someone say those things and be grateful that this candidate was actually being honest?
A good friend of mine has struggled to find her next career move because every company she has interviewed with has ended up hiring someone much less experienced. A company would rather pay someone the same money for less skills. This goes against everything I know about hiring people.
If you are a recruiter and what you are actually after is someone cheaper, then you should reduce the salary in your advert. This person came to the interview knowing how much you were prepared to pay them. Yet you judged them, assuming they wanted more money and responsibility than they currently have. The next time you interview someone, try asking the candidate what they really want from the role. Ask yourself, would it really be so bad to hire someone with 20 years’ experience and be able to pay them what you would pay someone with one tenth of that? What is really wrong with someone wanting to take a pay cut? What if the person with 20 years’ experience has just paid their final mortgage payment and now wants something lower level so that they have less stress and less responsibility? Is that really such a bad thing?
You could ask them to run training courses for the more junior members of the team. They could have such a wonderful opportunity to impart their skills and knowledge into your company.
So next time you interview for a position and you get turned down for being too experienced, perhaps try asking what the real reason is, and push back on the rejection. There is absolutely nothing wrong in applying for a position more junior than the one you currently have.
What’s your experience of this? For what reasons have you been turned down for a job? If you are a recruiter or hiring manager, what are your thoughts on hiring someone too skilled for the position you are offering?