Why it can be harder to be overqualified for a job

The prevailing perception is that this: Don’t rent overqualified staff. They’ll be bored. They’ll be dissatisfied. They’re flight dangers.

However isn’t this for the candidate, not the corporate, to resolve? Why are we comfy believing there’s extra satisfaction to be present in a job that persistently strains us previous the boundaries of psychological capability, time, and stamina? Hasn’t the Nice Resignation proven us that we can’t maintain this tempo?

I stop my job in late 2020 together with hundreds of thousands of American staff. I had spent eight years doing editorial work in tech, startups, and on-line publications. I began as a technical author, turned copy editor, then managing editor, then content material strategist—a predictable sequence for a profession like mine.


Lower than a decade in, I may handle huge editorial tasks, begin publications from the bottom up, rent and handle groups. However I used to be exhausted. With every step up got here extra accountability, extra work, extra hours on the job. The stress of ladder-climbing eroded me, and I maxed out at 29. How was I supposed to make it to 65?

My purpose has by no means been the C-suite or a VP seat. I need to be good at my job, fulfill my artistic inclination, and preserve a strong equilibrium. My ambition is to be well-rested, well-read, and well-written, to have wholesome relationships and an energetic mental life. 

We assume pure paths journey upward. We’re so used to the vertical profession climb that different rhythms really feel suspect. No less than now, the workforce is beginning to acknowledge lateral profession strikes, however what about professionals who need to transfer down a peg—or two, or three?

After I stop my job, I used to be not directionless. I used to be very clear about what I wished: Room to breathe. And I used to be joyful to take a pay minimize to get it.

I utilized for copyediting jobs. I like the work. It’s powerful, it’s cerebral and artistic, and it’s the job the place I felt most balanced. Copyediting is an artwork, one which can be practiced at any degree. I wished to discover a good function and keep there. In subsequent interviews, it wasn’t my expertise that have been questioned, however my motivation: Why on the earth would you need the job you had six years in the past?

I’ve by no means had a harder time proving myself to an interviewer. I’m not the primary to expertise this, in fact. When Amy deCastro, who had spent a decade in human assets, reentered the workforce after two years away, she too struggled to get previous the gatekeepers. “Their interpretation of what I had to supply was an excessive amount of, or perhaps I’d be overpaid. However in actuality, I by no means even had the chance to [explain why I wanted the job] as a result of I wasn’t even given the chance to step into that course of.”

She heard the identical rehearsed strains I did: “Your expertise is a bit too senior. We predict you’d be bored on this function. I don’t suppose it would actually be the scope and the depth that you just’re used to.” However deCastro felt that ought to be her choice. “It was very irritating for me to have put myself on the market, not even to be given the chance,” she says. “But, on paper, I had my senior skilled in HR certification. I had ten years of world expertise with nice firms. I used to be very concerned externally. I felt like, ‘Gosh, they’d be getting a nice individual.’”


By removing overqualified staff early within the hiring course of, employers are lacking out on skilled, extremely expert staff who’re sure about their skilled objectives.

DeCastro has since ascended the ladder and is now the VP of HR, world enterprise, at Schneider Electrical, the place, she says, she works to be certain that being overqualified “isn’t a difficulty.” In some circumstances, it can be a bonus. DeCastro is aware of from her personal expertise how difficult it can be, so when an overqualified résumé lands on her desk, she doesn’t dismiss it. “Yeah, they’re overqualified, however they’re going to herald a lot that I’m good with that. I see the eagerness.” DeCastro believes qualification is about what a candidate can add to the corporate, not whether or not they’ve accomplished the job earlier than. In reality, she’s discovered that overqualified workforce members are perfect mentors and can assist develop and increase groups. 

The final time there was a mismatch between candidate curiosity and qualification was in the course of the Nice Recession, when there was a surplus of expertise available in the market. Within the early 2010s, many employers refused overqualified staff, certain that an overqualified workforce may solely lead to disengagement, job dissatisfaction, and flight danger. However it occurred anyway: Ten years later, the workforce as a complete is disengaged, dissatisfied, and already out the door. 

Oliver Hahl, affiliate professor of group principle, technique, and entrepreneurship on the Tepper College of Enterprise at Carnegie Mellon College, has studied candidate functionality and their dedication to organizations. He believes we could be witnessing a shift in what it means to be overqualified, and who will get to resolve. Fashionable titles at brand-name firms used to be enticing to job seekers. “Now, the analysis of jobs appears totally different,” he says of the Nice Resignation.  

Workers simply don’t appear to be as involved with hierarchy, a minimum of not to the extent they used to be. As a substitute of trying for the subsequent step on the ladder or shopping for into hustle tradition, many job seekers ask: Can I reside the life I need? “I believe in some sense,” Hahl says, “these steps again may truly be seen as extra helpful to a job seeker.”

I wasn’t in a position to discover a full-time job as a copy editor. I went freelance and constructed a ebook of shoppers who weren’t apprehensive about my motivations. My expertise match their wants. I’m overqualified for a lot of the work I do, although not all, and for the primary time in years, I’m engaged in my work, I’m glad. I’m shifting at my very own tempo.