I was having lunch with a friend the other day, and he was talking about how he is looking for a new job.  He is educated and has been in the workforce for many years.  One of the things that struck me is when he applies for positions, he gets declined right away.  When I asked why he gets rejected right away, he thinks for a moment then says, “I’m right in the middle of overqualified and underqualified.”  

It may be arguable when a person is underqualified.  Although, is it based on the paper in front of the recruiter/manager saying as much, or is it a bias from somehow knowing about the applicant?  Who knows.  What is not understandable is how someone is overqualified.  I argue why a person would apply for a position where they are “overqualified.”  What does that mean?  Again, who is saying this?  Does it mean the applicant will not be able to do the role because they are too smart for it?  Also, who cares if their resume says they have more experience than what the job is asking for.  That experience will most likely bring with it…experience!  An exception might be an ex-C level applicant applying for an entry-level role such as a customer service representative.  Wait a second; when was the last time a C-level employee actually had to apply for a role?  Well, there goes that thought.  This whole notion makes zero sense to me.

Is it fair to say that the applicant may have lost his/her job?  Does he feel his current organization is reeling and does not feel safe?  Does she just want to step out of her current type of role and be a contributor?  These are the questions that sparked the conversation my friend and I had.  

The thing I kept going back to was that there is apparent interest in the position, or my friend would not have applied!  Now some may argue the other point where if the role was offered, would my friend get bored and quit?  This is a very real argument.  However, this notion might be the fault of the actual job posting and how it is written, rather than my friend’s qualifications.


No matter whether they’re overqualified or underqualified, their personality is a strong indicator of how they’re likely to perform on the job. The needs of your organization may dictate choosing an underqualified or an overqualified candidate, and one option isn’t better than the other.

— the McQuaig Institute

Per the above quote, being one or the other isn’t necessarily worse either.  My friend has sent many, many resumes and applied for roles within his wheelhouse.  Yet, he continues to get what can only be auto-rejection responses.  I would be remiss however if I didn’t say that we both understand recruiters and managers see many resumes a day.  It’s also understandable that with the unemployment rate as low as it is, recruiters have the luxury of being more selective.  It would be nice, however, if more chances would be taken on that ‘tween applicant.  It currently feels as though jobs are won and lost by a piece of paper which may or may not even be real.

Take a look at USC. The school is in a heap of trouble over the admissions scandal.  A question may now be if parents can cheat to get their kids into a college, scholarships for sports, or graduate from college, who’s to say there aren’t lies about resumes and experience?  Hiring personnel, let’s get past the social media style decision making, and have real conversations with applicants to find about them.  Per the McQuaig Institute, “good predictors come from knowing the candidate’s personality.”  This cannot be understood from a resume.  And who knows, you may find that next great employee who on paper is over/underqualified.  Just saying.  Hopefully, my friend will find something soon.  Great candidate and a great person.  He will be an asset wherever he goes.