Recruiters – It’s Time to Stop Using the “They Are Overqualified” Excuse

By Cindy O’Dea


I like to think I am a diligent and conscientious recruiter and few things annoy me more than hearing another recruiter or manager say – “we won’t hire them, they are overqualified“.

My first question to these people is – what is this candidate’s story and why have they applied for this position? I rarely hear anyone say they have investigated the candidate’s story beyond reading the application and then stating they are overqualified. I think it is a lazy option.

I like to consider a candidate from all perspectives and hear their story and why they have applied for the job I have advertised. Not every job gets so many applicants that we can’t take the time to screen the applications and consider some further. You can do this easily by a quick phone call. I think recruiters sometimes miss the fact that candidates are people too – and deserve respect and acknowledgement in the selection process; after all they took the time to apply to your company for a job.

Recruiters should appreciate receiving a resume that looks amazing and if it looks too good to be true, ask some questions. I’m so sick of hearing people around me say they have applied for a position that they really wanted but didn’t even get an interview. I guess a lot of the time they were considered ‘overqualified’ but they were companies they had really respected and wanted to work for. Guess what – not any more!

By talking to a candidate you think is overqualified you may be surprised at their story. It could be –

  • they know your company has a great reputation and want to work there;
  • their partner has a new job that pays squillions and now they have the opportunity to work in an area they are passionate about;
  • they have moved closer to a relative that they help care for and your company is a perfect fit;
  • they just won the lottery so want a job that gives them a chance to volunteer in their spare time as well

The list of possibilities is endless but you’ll never know if you don’t ask.

My point is you are likely to be doing yourself and your company a disservice if you are not taking the time to really engage with your candidates – you may be overlooking your dream candidate just because you read the resume and decided they were ‘overqualified’ but you just didn’t bother to check their story.

So next time you get a resume that looks extraordinary, think twice about rejecting it at face value. Find out their story – you may have a winning candidate on your hands!

Take the time to get the best candidate for the position and talk to people before rejecting ‘overqualified’ candidates.