Have you ever been told you are overqualified for a job? 

There are so many different reasons for being rejected. Unless you get some comprehensive feedback (which is rare these days!) you won’t know the real reasons. I’ve interviewed over ten thousand candidates during my recruitment career and I’ve rejected some good candidates.  However, have you ever been rejected because you are too senior for the job?   

Have you ever been told you are too senior or overqualified for a job? You might wonder why being too senior or overqualified is a problem.  It’s easy to jump to certain conclusions and feel disappointed.  You may even feel discriminated against. 

Hiring someone with more experience than the job requires will be highly dependent on the company and the employees already in the team. 

For some businesses hiring someone with more experience than the role requires is a good thing. These companies can manage these individuals. Some companies can manage career ambitious individuals and their aspirations. Forward-thinking businesses will know the advantages of future-proofing their talent pools. 

Some smaller businesses may see the benefits of bringing onboard someone with lots of experience. Smaller businesses typically have fewer resources and people. So, hiring someone who could take on more tasks would be an advantage. 

Although, they could be concerned that hiring someone more than capable of the job will be risky.  Their concerns will be that you won’t stay when the jobs market picks up again.

You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.  Les Brown

Internal Team

Every single time the hiring manager recruits, they need to review the structure of their existing team.  Good managers know their people and their strengths. They also know what skills or knowledge are needed in the future. Therefore, every time they have the opportunity to recruit they will look at what’s needed and possibly missing.

This means it’s not necessarily the amount of experience or the number of years. It’s the nature and type of experience, skills, and knowledge.  It’s not just about the role in isolation.  Good managers are thinking ahead to the future needs and most definitely taking into consideration the existing team.


Unfortunately, this is a real possibility that it may be discrimination. If this is the reason for the rejection, it’s direct discrimination. Look around the department or company and see if there are some common themes with the types of people that work for this company. 

Using age as part of the decision-making is unlawful.  However, I’ve seen evidence of discrimination throughout my career. Probably due to a number of reasons, insecure managers, bullying style of leadership, ignorance, lack of education, and training.

These types of aggressive managers often, get results, and therefore, the company tends to ignore their behaviour.  Looking at the bigger picture the advantages of building a diverse team far exceed less diverse teams.  Diverse teams bring wide and varied experiences, knowledge, skills, and different ways of thinking through problems.

“We have taken, and will continue to take, robust enforcement action, using all of our statutory powers, to tackle unlawful discrimination and ensure that no-one is excluded from the workplace. This includes enabling Britain’s employers to benefit from the talent and contributions of workers of all ages.” a spokesperson told People Management.

A threat to the manager

This is another potential issue that could get an overqualified candidate rejected. It’s not always the case and it’s a mistake to assume it is. I’ve worked with some very good hiring managers who wouldn’t be threatened by someone with more experience.

Good managers need to be thinking ahead about succession plans and having people in the team ready to step up.

There are some situations where it wouldn’t work if someone was highly experienced and equally ambitious. A small to medium-sized business might not be able to satisfy those people’s aspirations. All this, of course, should be assessed during the interview stage not just assumed!

Managing your career expectations

There have been times where it’s clear the candidate is desperate to get any job. This really won’t work long-term. It typically happens when there’s a downturn in the jobs market. When there are lots of redundancies, lots of candidates on the market, and fewer jobs. We understand you need a job and an income. However, from a purely business point of view taking on someone with more experience, skills, and knowledge for that role, could give the company a potential problem in the future.

Again, it’s a misconception that having more than the job requires is always a good thing.  Not in every case, unfortunately. The company probably has people doing the next level of the job.  It could create problems with a potentially top-heavy team with everyone wanting the next promotion. Not an easy situation to be in for a manager.

In fact, it’s very challenging managing a highly ambitious team. There just isn’t a number of promotions available to the team even if they are ready for the next move. 

If a company cannot satisfy an individual’s career aspirations they may leave.  If you are highly ambitious you’ll seek a promotion externally.

So, with all these points in mind think carefully before taking rejection personally.  There could be so many business reasons for being rejected.  How you handle rejection will demonstrate your character.  Being rejected doesn’t mean that you are a bad candidate.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you did anything wrong during the interview.  Be positive and keep the door open!