OVERQUALIFIED! Candidates Need Not Apply

I recently brought my car to a mechanic for scheduled maintenance; just an oil change is all I needed. When I arrived I noticed the metal sign, proudly hung outside the door announcing “ASE Certified – Over 30 years experience”. Obviously, he has way too much experience to do a simple oil change…..and even if I let him do it, he’d probably have a poor attitude and would jump at the chance to do a transmission service and just leave my car half finished.

No, he doesn’t charge any more to do an oil change than the drive through oil change down the road with lesser experienced employees. And it’s probably true that he would notice that fuel filter needing service that the drive through would miss. Why not hire him? Well obviously he’s OVERQUALIFIED.

OVERQUALIFIED! Candidates Need Not Apply

We all know that OVERQUALIFIED workers are only “settling” for that job until they can find something else; that OVERQUALIFIED workers are significantly more dissatisfied with their jobs and will foment discontent throughout the workplace; that OVERQUALIFIED employees were probably compensated at a higher level in their previous employment and want more compensation than we can afford; and that OVERQUALIFIED workers are untrainable and are too difficult to coach and would never accept our corporate philosophy.

Where do we get these facts? Why from that vast cesspool of information culled from the unsubstantiated, outdated, self-biased trash can we call common knowledge.

Where is the research to substantiate these assumptions? Where is the research to validate these claims? (That isn’t based upon pre 1980 studies).

A few years ago, prior to all the economic meltdowns and bailouts and lost retirement assets, socioeconomic commentators were warning about the loss of the experienced worker pool available to employers. We heard about how Gen X and Y could never match the numbers of the Baby boomers reaching retirement age. We also heard how older workers desired to remain in the workplace longer as a matter of self worth, not just a matter of financial necessity.

‘Self worth’. Now that’s a Maslowian indicator of job dissatisfaction if I ever heard one! And having a fully qualified team member with vast experience to draw upon, cutting on boarding time and training costs is definitely an added ROI bonus.

So why this (unsubstantiated) increased use of OVERQUALIFIED in candidate screenings? Couldn’t be age discrimination, as we all know that is an illegal discriminatory practice in employment settings.

There has to be another valid business reason we’re missing. Due to the lack of hard research data, I really need your input. Let me know at joel@joelawhite.com or comment here.

Have A Nice Day!


Did you enjoy Joel White’s entry into the Job Search Blogger Contest?  If so vote for Joel’s entry by leaving a comment below.  Be sure to check out the other entries in the Job Search Blogger Contest.


Posted in ,

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions


  1. Carol says

    Good points. But, what action can we can retrain outselves and others? Ask questions of speakers whenever we hear generalized statistics and reliance on “they said.”

    Chase it down. Who said? If no name or organization can be quoted, tell people you’ll have to discount the idea until you know where it’s come from.

    When working with students making career or higher education choices, I’ve often heard, “they say” and “other people say.” Teachers and parents say those phrases too. I chase down those thought too. Who? What was said? What are they basing a decision on, gossip? Life choices are way too important to be made on what fictitious people might or might not have said. What are the facts that you can verify?

    They say is hear say. Hear say isn’t allowed in a court of law as evidence. In these times, one way we can all encourage truthful interactions is to reject hear-say.



Pin It on Pinterest