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Answers to Interview Questions About Being Under or Over Qualified

Updated on June 11, 2014
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Assessing Your Credentials

Most of the time, you will have been selected to attend a job interview based on the information in your CV or resume. It's all very well having your credentials types on paper, but the interviewer is likely to want to dig a little (or a lot!) deeper to clarify your claims and ultimately find out if you are the right person for the job.

During the interview, you will be asked a series of questions to determine whether you are over qualified, under qualified or just right for the role based on your skills, experience, academic achievements and your continued personal and professional development.

This article explores the most common interview questions to assess your capabilities and what you can do to maximise your chances of securing the role.

Are You Under Qualified for The Job?

Let's face it - if you are under qualified for the job role, you are jolly lucky to have been selected for an interview.

Unfortunately, hiring managers don't select new employees based on luck alone, so it is down to you to consider some good quality answers that can display some transferable skills, which will make you desirable.

Perhaps you are under qualified for a team leader position, but you have had some experience in your personal life where you have managed a group to a successful outcome. This is what you should focus on during your interview.

If you are lacking in qualifications, research what you need to do to get up to speed and enrol on appropriate courses if necessary. Sometimes, just showing you are willing, will help.

Whatever you are lacking, make sure you can talk positively about steps you are or are willing to take to close the skills or experience gap.

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Are Your Over Qualified for The Job?

Before the interviewer gets the chance to ask if you are over qualified, ask yourself the very same question prior to the interview. What are your motives for applying? If you are over-qualified, it is vital that you have an answer that will reassure the hiring manager that you are serious about the position and there is a method in your madness.

So, "Are you over qualified for the job?"

This is a fairly common question that can halt someone’s confidence mid-flow but is mainly asked to establish if you are going to take this job, then leave when something better or more relevant to your experience comes along. Most employers have had their fingers burned in the past when they have hired what they think is the best person for the job, only for them to leave when a position more suited to their higher level skills comes along, or one that is closer to their salary expectations.

I regularly hear from candidates who tell me that the reason they didn't get the job was because they were over qualified, but I believe it is the answers they give that let them down. The interviewer knows the candidate is over qualified before the interview due to the information detailed in their CV, resume or application form, but still invited them along. Surely this means they were a contender for the position, just like all the other interviewees?

If you are asked outright if you are over qualified for the position, an answer such as this should alleviate any concerns the employer may have.

“I prefer to think of myself as fully qualified instead. Yes, I have worked at a higher level than this position in the past however this job and company offer the exact career path that I am looking to take. I believe that having additional experience to what is required will be an asset to you in both the short and longer term.”

It may well be that you are looking for a lower level role due to some down shifting in your life such as spending more time with your family or looking to work closer to home. If this is the case, be completely honest. Any employer will value someone with higher credentials if the honesty and integrity is well placed. They will be getting more for their money, after all!



Your Educational Credentials

  • “How has your education prepared you for your career?”

This is a common question asked to candidates interviewing for their first job and can appear like a broad question, so take great care to avoid waffle and a lengthy answer.

Focus on how your education has prepared you by including how well you have worked with others as part of a team and also the dedication you displayed in order to achieve your qualifications.

Aim to keep your answer relative to the role. If you are interviewing for a position in a shop then talk about how interacting with your fellow students has taught you valuable lessons about customer service or engaging with others.

Did you lead any class projects or have any roles of responsibility such as a Prefect, Peer Mentor, Head Girl/ Boy? Perhaps you collaborated with others on organising or running the school fete?

Try to use behavioural examples where you can, rather than solely talking about academic achievements.

When talking about your academic achievements or qualifications don’t assume that the interviewer knows exactly what you are talking about. They may not have taken these qualifications, or if they did, it may have been a long time ago, so although you should keep your answers brief, try to include detail so everyone can understand. This is especially important if you are at a panel interview.

Avoid jargon, acronyms or abbreviations for the same reason.

Quick poll

Have you lost out on a job because you were over qualified?

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Confirming Your IT Literacy Claims

Almost all jobs these days involve IT skills. Gone are the days when pen and paper were the only options to communicate the written word or produce reports. Most employers will want to know how advanced your computer literacy skills are and try to establish how much training may be required should you secure the position.

  • “How are your computer skills?"
  • "What programs and software are you familiar with?”
  • "Do you use social media?"

These should easy to answer and the interviewer is just looking for a list of programs you are familiar with and not an in depth discussion on what each one does. The same goes for details on how your computer skills are and if you use social media. Avoid the temptation to say you spend 4 hours a day Facebooking and Tweeting - the employer may think you will spend a chunk of your in work time on these activities.

If you are learning a new technical skill, then now would be a great time to let them know. Similarly, if you have recently mastered an IT skill or have enrolled on a course, talk about the positive aspects of your learnings and how this can be of benefit at work.

Continued professional development could be the difference between you winning or losing the job role.
Continued professional development could be the difference between you winning or losing the job role.

Continued Learning

Employers love to hear that you are trying to be the best you can be whether that is professionally or personally.

  • “Do you try to learn something every day?”

This doesn’t mean that the interviewer is expecting you to be studying for a degree in your spare time; it’s more about self awareness and continued professional or personal development.

To show you are keen to develop; you could say:

“I always learn something new at work whether that is how to improve my communication skills or deal with a new situation.”

Or

“I try to keep up to date with industry trends and developments by reading publications and both local and national news articles.”


Whatever you say, make sure you are honest. Don't imply you are a bookworm, if the only thing you ever read is the TV listings guide!

A Final Word

Whether you are under or over qualified, your answers during a job interview are the catalyst to you being hired or not. Always take the time to prepare in advance and think about what questions the interviewer may ask you based on your skills gaps or additional skills and experience.

Good luck!


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