Many employers have a mental image of the perfect candidate for each job. In most cases, this includes a list of the must-haves, the nice-to-haves and a salary range. Their objective is to get the person with the most skills at the lowest cost. Unfortunately for the employer, rarely do ‘perfect’ candidates walk through the door at the right price. For an employer, choosing a candidate is a careful balancing act of give and take.

For candidates, however, the rejection they often hear when they don’t fit into the criteria the employer sets is that they are either over-qualified or under-qualified. Before I present solutions to these problems, let’s look at the reasoning behind the answers.


Are you kidding me? An employer should be falling down in gratitude that a person with as many skills as me would even think of taking this job.

It’s hard to imagine being turned down because of being over qualified. Shouldn’t employers want the most for their money?

Not always.

The question that lingers in their head is: how long will this person stay at a job that may not be challenging or which pays significantly lower than what he or she has made in the past? Employers do not want to go to the trouble of training and investing resources in someone who is likely to jump ship at the first chance they have at a ‘better’ job. This is the top reason why employers reject the over-qualified candidate.


Obviously, an employer has a list of the absolute minimum skills needed to perform each job. If a candidate lacks basic significant skill sets necessary to perform the job, the employer can’t afford to invest significant resources in training. Often, employers state “X years of experience” as one of their requirements. Many adults graduating from college face a tough dilemma: if I have no experience, and employers in my industry demand it, how do I ever GET it?


For the over-qualified candidate, your top goal is to convince the employer you are seriously interested in the job and mean to remain with the company and in the job for the long haul. That may not be an easy task. You may be sincere – after all, the economy is in the gutter still, and finding any job is like striking gold – but convincing an employer of your sincerity is quite a different story. Try some of these tactics:

    I am looking to eliminate much of the stress involved in my former jobs and your position looks exactly like the type of job I need to achieve my objectives
    I am no longer happy in this industry and I would like a change that fits my current needs and plans better

Another trick you can use is to ‘dumb down’ your CV. Generalise your skills, duties and experience and create a mission statement that reflects you are seeking a change that expands your horizons.

For the under-qualified candidate, recognise that everything starts with the CV. You won’t even get an interview without a proper CV. This is where expert help can play a huge role in helping you create a CV that will get you in the door.

Candidates that are seeking to advance to a higher position often find it difficult. Emphasise items that demonstrate:

    Your ability to learn quickly (short training times, excellent grades, etc.)
    Your ability to take on tasks outside of your current job description
    Your ability to perform similar or related tasks
    Your experience in similar position(s)

As I’ve said before, NEVER lie or exaggerate your past experience. You will burn bridges with any company that uncovers the truth. If you say you have a skill or ability and then cannot follow through, you will be walking out the door even more quickly than you walked in.