The recruiter told me I am OVERQUALIFIED – Truth or something Else?

You found a job posting that really intrigued you, customized your resume and cover letter to match up the keywords and hit the submit button.  The telephone screen went well and the two interviews too – or so you thought until you were told by the hiring manager that you were OVERQUALIFIED.

Have you ever been blindsided with those words after spending hours and hours applying and interviewing for what you thought could be your perfect match?

Are you “Over Qualified” or is there another reason you weren’t hired?

Newsflash:  you may never know the real reason you weren’t hired.  Very often, recruiters and employers tell candidates that they found another candidate who was a better fit.  Or you might be told that you were not hired because you are overqualified.

What to do?  If you are still in the interview and have an opportunity to respond, here are my suggestions:

  1. Hit the pause button before responding
  2. Muster up all your strength to avoid a defensive response
  3. Seek out clarification

This scenario is a perfect occasion to showcase your emotional intelligence.

Self awareness – identify your emotions and thoughts

Managing your emotions – avoid being defensive!

Reading the other person – his/her communication style, body language and other clues to demonstrate the degree of receptiveness to your questions

Influencing the other person – through authenticity, calmness and honesty, seek to clarify the reason for their conclusion and decision


This won’t work in every situation, but since you have already been denied the job, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain if you can change the perception and influence the decision.  Here are some responses:


“Thanks for being honest with me.  Obviously I am disappointed.  May I ask you to share with me what led you to that conclusion?”

“Oh; I am sorry that my experience could work against me.  What concerns about my background do you have?”

”I certainly appreciate your goal to hire the right person and I thank you for sharing your concerns with me.  What would make you feel better about hiring me into this position?”

The key is to exhibit composure, continued interest in the job and respect for the other individual.  Rather than being defensive and risking the discussion being negative or shut down, your best opportunity for a change to the perception is to remain positive and professional.  Even if this position doesn’t work out, you will create a favorable impression in the event that a position more suitable to your credentials is posted.

The job search is tough.  You need someone on your side – someone who knows the process and who has hired hundreds of professionals.  I hired top talent for Fortune 100 and 200 companies for 25+ years and now help job seekers navigate the murky and choppy waters of the complex job search.  I’d love to help you land your ideal job, get promoted or change careers.


3 thoughts on “The recruiter told me I am OVERQUALIFIED – Truth or something Else?

  1. Great advice as usual! If the person selected decides not to accept the offer, which happens fairly often in my experience, being the “runner-up” is a perfect place to be if you ended the discussions positively and on good terms!

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