‘Overqualified’ Says More About Them Than It Does About You

Another interesting Lifehacker article on the job search: What Does Overqualified Mean?

Here are the two most interesting interpretations:

Overskilled

If your skills are greater than what is necessary for the job, an employer may fear that the lack of challenges provided will bore you into looking for more interesting work in the future. Hiring a tech lead to do bug fixes could lead to a short stint. There is emerging evidence that shows skilled workers do not exit less challenging jobs quickly or in high numbers, but hiring managers are not quite ready to abandon the traditional line of thinking.

Threatening

If your experience is greater than those conducting the interviews, there could be some fear that you could be a competitor for future opportunities for promotion. If a start-up is yet to hire a CTO, the highest geek on that firm’s food chain may be jockeying for the role. This may sound a bit like a paranoid conspiracy theory, but I genuinely believe it is prevalent enough to mention.

Let’s examine how these interrelate. Both these assessments of a candidate’s skills have more to do with the manager’s apprehension about his own career than the applicant’s abilities. Managing from a place of fear like this is problematic, because it prevents the manager from hiring a great candidate who happens to be overly experienced. Experience, in my experience (haha), does not indicate a lack of willingness to work hard or stick around for a while. In bad situations, it can lead to a sense of entitlement that is not appropriate for that job level. But experience in and of itself can also mean maturity, calm, a greater sense of balance and perspective. If every manager is afraid that a new hire is gunning for their job, then they will never hire standout candidates, and that would be such a waste.

But seriously, folks. I am basically in this exact position in my temp work. I am way overqualified for this job, but does preclude me from being deeply appreciative of the work and the paycheck. I am doing a full-time job (and sort of an assistant’s job) while they look for a permanent candidate. They know I don’t want to work here permanently (it’s outside my area of passion) and so they don’t have to be threatened by the fact that I am overqualified for the position, because I will move myself along (soon!!! I hope) when I am able to do so. They enjoy the benefit of me being awesome, with none of the drawbacks of me feeling stifled, bored or frustrated.

I suppose that really this article just underlines for me how much work is about the people you work with, not just the tasks you perform. Work cultures that value experience and intelligence over personal gain are certainly my cup of tea, and so I wonder if businesses like these actually perform better than businesses in which management is trying to hold back workers who might be someday be management material. I can only imagine that workers stay longer, which saves money, builds loyalty, and develops institutional knowledge that is valuable in executing long-term strategic plans and accomplishing large-scale goals.

Link: What Does Overqualified Mean by Dave Fecak

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4 comments
  1. Excellent post! The last paragraph really sums it up for me – it really is about the people and not the tasks that are performed day to day. During my teaching placement I worked with a few different managers and colleagues, basically performing the same tasks but the experience at each place was very different. Institutional knowledge can’t be undervalued either – I worked at the school I attended as an office junior for a couple of summers, and knowing all the names and job titles made sorting the post a whole lot quicker!

  2. fecak said:

    Author of the LIfehacker article here, which was edited from my JobTipsForGeeks.com blog. Well said!

    • Great article! I really loved your suggestions for ways to reinterpret extensive experience–in fact, last night I was rejected for a job (for being overqualified and too expensive), but they want to hire me to consult on their management practices. Finding ways to maintain qualities you know are your strengths despite this rough job market is so important.

      • fecak said:

        Thanks, and agreed on your thoughts. The most successful senior level candidates that I’ve dealt with do not think inside the box of traditional employment and consider all options (consulting, training, part-time projects, etc.) to be sure to keep both food on the table and their skills current. Enjoy the consulting and stay creative in your future searches!

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