It seems intuitive that businesses would like to recruit the most qualified and experienced candidates. However, this is not always the case.

Emily believed that the best way to pursue her dream career was to apply for an entry-level administrative position and work her way up. There was a vacancy at a large entertainment firm in London, and her five years of experience at other international corporations meant that she met all of the qualifications.
Emily was contacted within days by the company’s employment staff, indicating that the strategy appeared to be successful. However, there was both good and terrible news. She continues, “They said I had a great resume and was an outstanding applicant.” “However, they informed me at the interview that I was overqualified and that I would rapidly become bored in a position under my experience.”

The corporation promised Emily a new role as a compromise. However, the position ultimately fell through. Emily was not only caught in a position she wanted to leave, but also in a Catch-22: she was overqualified for an entry-level post in her desired field, but underqualified for a position that matched her present job title.

Emily, who is using one name for job security purposes, was upset by the entire procedure. “I would have like to have been given the initial role as advertised.”

“Good is not always good”
Typically, as a worker’s career progresses, he or she assumes increasingly senior responsibilities, eventually ascending to management or executive positions. However, the greater an employee’s position, the fewer other jobs exist.

Terry Greer-King, vice-president of EMEA at the London-based cybersecurity company SonicWall, adds, “They go towards the pyramid’s apex.” “As they gain more experience, there are fewer opportunities; trying something else would necessitate descending the pyramid.”

Applying for roles that appear to be “below” one’s present career level may be a warning flag.
Sometimes, employees wish to take a step back in order to advance. This could be due to a career shift, as in Emily’s case, or because an experienced worker opts for a lateral or downward move to get a longer-term benefit. Personal circumstances may also play a role: a move or a return to work after a professional break may require an employee to accept a lower-level position.

Despite the fact that candidates may perceive these as valid explanations, recruiters may view their application for a position ‘below’ their present professional level as a red flag. For Greer-King, an overly seasoned candidate’s CV is suspicious, just as one that indicates job-hopping or no movement is.

“In the hiring process, you must be paranoid,” he explains. “You must inquire about a person’s motive if they are dropping a level or two and have likely previously accomplished what the position offers.”

While a few candidates may be able to convincingly explain their motivations and persuade employers that they truly want to take that step down, others may fall victim to recruiters’ concerns that a lower position will leave them dissatisfied. The risk is that the overqualified worker may quickly become unchallenged, bored, and restless for a new position.

Greer-King notes, “When someone enters a company, it could take between three months and a year to get them totally productive.” “Even if someone is overqualified for the position, they cannot just show up and start working; they must grasp the company’s culture, methods, and technology. Therefore, investing so much time in someone, just to have them leave six months later, is not the most prudent recruiting decision.”

Senior-level employees in businesses with a well-established corporate ladder, such as management consulting, are particularly susceptible to the dangers of overqualification. Davis Nguyen, founder of My Consulting Offer in Georgia, US, explains, “Someone with extensive knowledge in one sector may apply for a position in a different industry, only to be told by the recruiting staff that they should apply for a higher position.” However, if there is no vacancy at that level, the candidate would ultimately be rejected.

Greer-King states, “An employer wants to hire the right individual at the right time who can grow into the role, develop, and mature.” “Generally, employees desire to be pushed; when they are, they tend to be happier and stay longer. Good is not necessarily good at its core: a candidate can be incorrect in areas other than competence and experience.”

‘Took my choice away’
Shelley Crane, director of permanent placement services at the London-based staffing business Robert Half, argues that agile companies may also be able to attract overqualified individuals and, by advancing them fast, prevent any sense of boredom. Thus, firms can benefit from a worker’s expertise while maintaining their motivation and engagement over the long term.


“Someone who is ‘too good’ for the position will only be a short-term contribution to the company,” she notes, “unless there are outstanding internal advancement chances.”

As a result of the current recruiting crisis, employers can no longer afford to be as selective about overqualified candidates. Greer-King recognizes that evaluating individuals with excessive experience is more difficult when competition for talent is high.

Yet, according to Crane, employers are more concerned with retaining their current workforce; overqualified recruits continue to be rejected. “It might be costly and time-consuming to locate a new employee in the current market,” she explains. When overqualified employees leave an organization, it is frequently back to square one.

‘A catastrophic result’
Crane cautions workers against the temptation to purposefully downgrade their skills or eliminate experience from their resumes. Given that a candidate’s professional past will likely be addressed during the job interview, any dishonesty may be revealed later in the hiring process.

“It is never a smart idea to trim your resume,” she explains. She also cautions workers against seeking for positions for which they are overqualified, stating, “If someone applies for several positions below their skill level and is denied, it can have a disastrous effect on their confidence.”

Ultimately, despite the fact that perseverance and tenacity in the job search might be rewarded, it is a fact that some seasoned candidates may be stuck through no fault of their own. This is often the case for senior personnel, especially those who have been with an organization for an extended period of time. Greer-King states, “They could be embedded in another corporate culture.” This reduces their malleability.


BBC. (n.d.). The over-qualified workers struggling to find a job. BBC Worklife. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20220705-the-over-qualified-workers-struggling-to-find-a-job

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