So why is being overqualified so often seen as a bad thing? It's understandable to be rejected if you're not qualified enough, but what's the concern about the overqualified?Amisha Jain
No one can explain better the trauma of this ‘Overqualified’ tag on the candidates like me at this moment since I was rejected a day ago in the campus recruitment drive conducted by the prestigious and renowned MNC - Tata Consultancy Services in the premises of our institute.
Just like every fresher in the crowd, somewhere in my heart, I had the hope that I can bid a single seat among 200+ recruitments with my relevant skills and abilities but unfortunately I couldn't. I was too skilled to be recruited. Sounds dramatic! Isn't it? It felt same like being told by a date that you are too smart to be dated.
Out of 273 students who cleared online test of TCS which consisted of 4 segments, around 220 students were placed in the final list of selected students in TCS recruitment drive. Like other students, I was hoping my name on the list too as my interview went quite well and lasted for around one and half hour, segmented in the slots of 50 and 40 minutes respectively. While I was enquired for about 50 mins in Technical and Managerial Rounds, I spent another 40 minutes showcasing my capabilities in HR round.
My fellow mates of the same panel were baffled with the elongated interview process and gathered around me as soon as I came out of the cabin to know what took me around 50 minutes and what were their (executives) reactions to my answers. Before I could narrate them everything, I was called for HR round. Again 40 minutes questionnaire was carried out which almost triggered the minds of other candidates who were already nervous and were waiting for their chance to come after me.
I am a Mechanical Engineering student currently studying in the final year of Dual Degree Integrated Course Post Graduation Programme (B.Tech + M.tech). I am a freelance content writer since a year and right now I am working as Digital Content Strategist in a digital marketing agency. I had been active in various communities (WordCamp, E-Cells, NGOs & USM) during my engineering span.
Also, I have a proportionate knowledge of design and coding software. I didn't confine myself just to industrial exposure but also pursued internships in robotics and mechatronics.
My CV constituted of few achievements too. Out of which, one of them became the center of attraction of the whole technical interview process and that was manifesting paper presentation on 'Augmented Reality'.
Few of my personal traits and interests like forging crafts, sketching and 'Critique Writing' added fuel to the fire in the last two rounds of Interview Process.
Err...I forgot to mention about the list of the types of writing I expertise as a content writer and skills as a digital content marketer. Well, even they didn't care to inquire about them as it seemed to be the least important thing on my resume.
After a long tiring day which was mostly utilized in flaunting the art of waiting, finally, my name was called for the simultaneous TR and MR Rounds. There were two interviewers sitting right in front of me. Though my head and heart were throbbing, I smiled and greeted them calmly. Eventually, exchange of words took place.
'Your resume seems outstanding' said the first interviewer I remember. Glad at being complimented, I didn't remember how I got into the discussion on the use of online software to design resume, infographics, flyers, brochures, proposal, business plans etc. We spent around 5 minutes discussing the versatility of Canva software which brought me in the misleading conspiracy of terms like productivity, efficiency, inputs, and outputs. Unexpectedly I was supposed to answer and define them in both mechanical and psychological terms.
While was I trying to direct them to my existing profile of digital content strategist through my resume, I was shot with the question 'Which is your favourite subject?' Again bewildered and confused which subject should I say ' digital marketing or mechanical engineering', instantly I was sent back into the memories of basic knowledge of Mechanical Subjects.
Disheartened I said, "Heat and Mass Transfer"
"And what specifically in HMT?" asked the 1st interviewer.
"Heat Exchanger" I replied.
" Any other subject", 2nd interviewer enquired.
" Refrigeration and Air Conditioning" I spoke with confidence.
"Any other?" 1st one interrogated.
The very first thought which struck my mind was why are they questioning my technical knowledge if they have nothing to do with these core subjects.
"Thermodynamics" My mind sarcastically yelled and then my throat but in a different tone.
And they were relieved by the king of all subjects in mechanical engineering. Every engineer in this universe might have heard at least once in a lifetime about 'Laws of Thermodynamics' and my whole technical knowledge was judged by just two statements of second law.
While reciting those two statements, in my mind I had the urge of answering about that unnoticed list of content writing and digital marketing expertise in which I am working right now and own plans to contribute in IT industry. I was sure in my head that I may not be able to make the rightful use of thermodynamics in IT sector but can perfectly carve Content Management and Marketing somewhere in this industry.
Although the interview didn't circumscribe the conventional questions like 'Tell me about yourself' but the very expected question was thrown at me-
"What do you think, how can you implement your engineering knowledge into TCS?"
"These four years of engineering have not only inherited me the basic knowledge of mechanical subjects but exposed to me every possible discipline a corporate company would ask for. Be it anything like technical expertise in both software and core subjects, management, marketing, content generation, industrial experience, community services etc. everything just widened my approach of thinking. Engineering has raised me in such a highly unstable environment that it made me adaptive to any kind of challenging work atmosphere.
Also, in spite of being a mechanical engineer, I believe in this changing era every branch is interrelated and I haven't just confined myself to mechanical engineering from the very beginning. My knowledge of design software and mechatronics is an asset for me to experiment in the merged fields of Mechanical and IT industry. IOT and Robotics were my auxiliary technical tools but now I can use them as mainstream. If given a chance to prove myself, I believe I can bring laurels to your company."
P.S. This answer was prepared beforehand and these were my exact words in front of the interviewers.
After an endless series of questions about almost everything on my resume, they further tested my patience on individual growth in the company which I already knew because the girl before me was asked the same question. I answered calmly and hoped that they were convinced. Obviously, I can't predict everything about their favorable or unfavorable mysterious reactions.
Bang on! Here comes the most awaited response-
"You are overqualified for this post".
They mocked me, complimented me and consoled me at the same time. I tried to defend myself but was helpless. Those 50 minutes of interrogation were submerged in vain. My whole engineering, my piled up activities, community services, industrial training, internship, academic results, software training, work experiences, everything means everything was wrapped in the shrug of term 'Overqualified' and was thrown at my face.
Disheartened I left the room and was sent to HR round in the other cabin.
Exchange of greetings and smiles took place and I was asked for the resume. She appeared to be impressed but my mind didn't wish to believe as it was already healing the wound of overqualification.
"Digital Content Strategist" She sub-vocalized.
She was audible and I instantly nodded in reply.
"Tell me about yourself" she broke the ice.
"I am a writer by passion, an engineer by qualification and a Digital Content Strategist by profession".
That title 'overqualified' woke the inner Ghalib in me and my answers were becoming one-liners. Sad, sore and short.
Fortunately, that lady dragged me into consciousness by her queries about my existing job and my role in the company. She further enquired about the team, history of the company, its projects and much more. I was into my senses again. Few resume things were repeated again but neither I was interested nor confident this time in showcasing them.
"Your resume does not contain academic details and marks.Why?" she intrigued.
While placing original marksheets of class 10th, 12th and Engineering till this semester, I tried to justify my action by the statement-
"Figures are just meant to be on paper while experience must be reflected in your personality (resume/ CV)".
I knew the brimming emotions of the inner Ghalib weren't going to settle down so easily, I made sure she didn't find me creepy. ( I cursed the inner writer in me which made that instant pakau dialogue. Tears!)
And the list finally got attention and recognition by her. I proudly started describing every type of writing and marketing I pursue. To my amazement, she asked me to refer the links of websites where my articles are published. Yayy! Felt like hugging her but Ghalib didn't allow (He hates recruiters now).
And damn my hard fate. I could remember only my 7-9 proud works, but her laptop wasn't even allowing to open at least three of them (poor internet connectivity and then https security).
Showed her my previous articles on Yourstory.com but she misunderstood me. She mistook me as a review writer. I tried to explain her my domains of work but TCS security and its connectivity brought me to the ground.
I requested her to open those links in her mobile phone and pay a visit to my technical write-ups. Eventually, she got an insight of what I was talking about. It took me around 15 minutes to justify that I am a versatile writer and know 7 types of content writing. Pheww! Ultimately, she was convinced.
Already 30 minutes were over and there enters another TCS executive which reminded her of less time. She was about to wind up but she changed her mood and piled up a series of relevant questions to filter
"Why do you want to join our company?"
Me: " I am basically a content writer. The content itself is an information. That means I am already working in the sub-domain of information technology. I don't want to confine myself just to a subset of this vast field. I want to explore every niche of IT sector and outgrow my area of expertise beyond limits. Joining TCS would not only give me global exposure but will also groom and modify my existing knowledge of content writing, software, and digital marketing."
P.S. Words were exactly same but the answer was unprepared.
Few more such type of questions and everything was about to end.
Just last one, " If there's no internet available where would you publish your technical content?"
This question triggered my every nerve but in a couple of seconds, I was ready with two answers.
She was not convinced.
Bingo! She smiled and that's all for the day. While I was leaving, she asked: "Can I have your resume?" I handed her my career summed up in two pages with a heavy heart ( Ghalib still in his mood) and went out of the hall.
Everyone was so curious outside. What were you doing for 40 minutes? "Tera to selection pakka hai yaar". These words were aching my ears now. Because I was already dumped by them as an overqualified candidate.
I made sure with my panel mates if she kept everyone's resume after their interviews. Again, to my amazement, everyone was having their resume except me. Well, honestly there was nothing to be happy about this but still it gave me the last hope to be in TCS.
Although the hangover of the interview was supposed to vanish by the midnight, the fear of rejection continued to overwhelm my mind. The results were expected to be announced by the evening of next day. I tried to divert my mind and kept myself busy in work. However, I kept checking emails if TPO has dropped the list of all the qualified students and wished that TCS might have shown little mercy to the overqualified students too.
But it didn't! The list contained almost every known name of my college: friends, best friends, friends of friends, facebook friends, Junior friends, Senior Friends, Friends I made in panel, Friends of irrelevant branches too (PCT, Automobile etc. no offence but I am still wondering, how are you going to implement your engineering knowledge there?)
Sadly, my name wasn't there among 220 students. Messages and calls of consolement started coming. 'Koi Na' became words of the day. Those people who claimed my selection before the disclosure of results were now saying "You deserve much more". The irony of overqualification questioned my relevancy in any corporate sector and I am still searching for answers.
Dumbstruck by the tag 'Overqualified', I further researched to dive in the similar dilemma of candidates like me and made a list of reasons why companies don't hire overqualified students among the freshers. Few of them are listed below:
1. The senior people in the team are under the view that they will definitely get better offers and will not end up joining this company.
2. Even if they join, they will definitely quit soon to study further.
3. They suspect that these folks will complain about the lack of challenge in their work which will create an environment of dissatisfaction that could spread to other employees.
4. They might be arrogant and set a bad behavioral example to other employees, especially the new ones who will join after/along with that person.
So why is being overqualified so often seen as a bad thing? It's understandable to be rejected if you're not qualified enough, but what's the concern about the overqualified?
I had penned down another set of reasons why companies need to discard the myth of not hiring so-called 'overqualified' candidates.
1. We are easy to train. We are ever ready to hit the ground running once hired. It's very obvious to possess the basic skills needed to succeed in the position as we already own some experience of the corporate environment.
2. Our experience and strong skills make us more confident at the workplace. As employees, we are usually self-sufficient, ask the right questions and hold ourselves accountable for results. Managers won’t have to worry about holding our hands through every project and guide us for every small thing.
3. We are not challenging. Understand that. We just don't exist to question the potential of your company. Just don’t assume that we will keep nagging and complaining about our growth in the company. Our prior experience has taught us very well about the working of any organization, its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. We solemnly will stand with you and won't quit even in company's trials and tribulations. We don't fear challenges.
4. We spot new opportunities, accomplish goals faster, work to add value even with a near-term exit, possess leadership potential and are capable of bringing new skills and experience to the workplace. We do not expect amazing paychecks but just crave for experience in challenging work environment.
Rejection is rejection!.Whether you are rejected by a date or by a company, it hurts. The words 'IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S ME' are painful. ( The inner Ghalib is still awake)
Honestly, I am not at all depressed or sad about being rejected. It was my one of the best interview experiences I ever had. I enjoyed every moment and felt like sharing my recent TCS encounter with the world. Also, I wanted to aware the recruiters that there's no loss in hiring overqualified candidates, instead we have few advantages over qualified students.
The only question that triggered my mind was 'What were interviewers wondering while hiring 220 average qualified students while they hesitated to hire a single overqualified candidate?'
Well, I may deserve something better or less but dear TCS recruiters, I owe you gratitude for giving me a memorable interview experience.Thank you for retrieving my faith in myself and inspiring me to explore future opportunities.