Ask A Progeek: Overqualification

Ah, the job search.  We usually like to think that we can totally ace the requirements and have the perfect personality and then some.  We’re ready to overdo it . . .

. . . but you can overdo it can’t you?  That’s what this week’s Ask A Progeek is about.  The question submitted to me is:

When applying for a job, I don’t simply want to show them I meet their expectations – I want to show how I exceed them.  However, there is also the trouble of being considered overqualified.  How do I stand out without disqualifying myself?

This is a difficult issue mostly because of the fear of over qualification.  It’s a big issue in the news as people grasp to explain why so many folks have trouble finding jobs (short answer: economy sucks, you’re an idiot for asking).    So the first question is – is this actually a worry?

There’s your first judgement call to make – are you in danger of being overqualified for the job and will being overqualified disqualify you in the first place?

This is something I’ll unfortunately have to leave to you because my experience with the “over qualification issue” is both limited and confusing.  Here’s what little I’ve found:

  • Being rejected for being overqualified does happen for some low-level/entry-level jobs.
  • This rejection seems to decline as you move up the job chain.
  • The issue is made more confusing in a job market with many unemployed people because those doing the hiring may also see an overqualified person as a bargain – who also won’t leave.

So the issue may not even be an issue.

The second question is – “if you are overqualified, do you even want the job.”  That’s another question you have to answer.  The job may bore you, the job may not help you grow, the job may not be for you.  Even if you won’t get rejected you may want to be more selective (hard to do in this economy).

OK, so we looked that it may not be an issue, or it may be a warning sign.  Let’s say over qualification is an issue.  What do you do?

  1. You may not be able to avoid it anyway.  So if you really want the job but worry about over qualification, then prepare your answers if someone brings it up.  Just don’t jump into it unless the interviewer brings it up.
  2. Answer truthfully about the issues related to over qualification.  Will you get bored?  Why do you want this?  And so on.  Yes, you can put a positive spin on it, but still, don’t like – because it will come back.
  3. Note your other qualifications for the job subtly and over time (in fact you should be doing this from the start), so any over qualification issues are overwhelmed by the positives.

The over qualification issue is a complicated one – when it’s even an issue.  Approach it with some thought and consideration.  The best balance is keeping your own mental balance in dealing with the situation . . .

. . .  if it’s even really an issue for you.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at