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Dan Miller Christian Blog and Commentary

You're Overqualified - Right!

  • Dan Miller
    Dan is the author of the New York Times best-selling 48 Days To The Work You Love , No More Dreaded Mondays and Wisdom meets Passion. He has been a guest on CBS' 'The Early Show,' MSNBC's 'Hardball with Chris Mathews,' Moody MidDay Connection, and the Dave Ramsey Show. Dan has spoken at the White House Christian Fellowship, and is in high demand at national conferences on aging and changes in the workplace, and at universities and churches. Over 130,000 people have subscribed to his weekly newsletter, his 48 Days Podcast consistently ranks in the top 3 under Careers on iTunes, and the 48Days.net business community is viewed as an example around the world for those seeking to find – or create – work they love. Committed to personal priorities, Dan and his wife Joanne have celebrated their 45th anniversary and have 3 world-changing children and 12 amazing grandchildren.
  • 2013 Aug 06
  • Comments

I was approached by a young man recently 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:

  • We think you’re overselling your abilities
  • 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.

I just hired a young man as our “yard beauty manager.”  We just wanted someone to maintain our flower beds and keep them free of weeds.  I had tons of people apply who could pull weeds and just wanted a job.  This young man has a degree in horticulture, is licensed and bonded in the state of Tennessee, and gave me a four-page proposal for year round care.  Did I reject him because he was clearly more “over-qualified” than any other candidate?  No, I loved his in-depth knowledge.  But the thing that really tipped the scale was that both Joanne and I just liked him as a person.  We felt comfortable with him, appreciated his respect, and his focus on making our property beautiful rather than on how soon he could get paid. 

Incidentally, the young man who initiated this blog was very defensive, convinced 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.

Has anyone ever suggested you were “over-qualified?”  What was the message you felt in your gut?