Why are candidates with more experience getting passed over for those with less experience?

We’ve all been told that (relevant) experience is the most valuable thing you can put on your resume. Heck, I tell you that all the time through Resume Rescue!

However, it is true that candidates have been getting rejected for having “too much experience”… How weird and ironic is that?

From my understanding, effective hiring managers are usually looking for people who can grow into a role over time — aka candidates who have most of what they’re looking for but not necessarily everything. If you already have 100% or more of what the job posting is asking upon hire, then you’re not going to gain much from the role and that could potentially lead to de-motivation, checking out, and mediocre performance.

Another reason why senior or more experienced candidates may be getting passed over for those who have less experience would be team fit and culture.

Many hiring managers that I talk to prefer to hire candidates who may have a bit less education or experience but are eager to learn and have a growth mindset and can-do attitude. These types of candidates are seen as a value-add and culture-add to the team and are more malleable and easier to manage. Senior candidates may sometimes show up with a “know-it-all” attitude and fixed mindset which could leave a bad impression with the manager and potentially cause tension with team.

A more technical reason would be money, money, money! Senior candidates with lots of experience typically expect and ask for higher compensation. If a hiring manager has a tight budget, they may opt for someone who has less experience but is willing to accept a lower compensation package and then train them up in the role.

Top 3 Tips:

  1. Apply for jobs where you still have room to grow. This is beneficial for your career development because it gives you something to look forward to vs. being in a job where you’re bored and unmotivated. I’ve personally applied for roles where I met ~50% of the hiring criteria and then I’d develop a career walking deck to show the hiring manager how I could fill in the gaps on-the-job.
  2. Bring a positive, can-do attitude to the interview. Practice smiling (you’d be surprised how serious we tend to look in interviews). Emphasize a growth mindset and how you’re willing to learn and be resourceful. Provide examples of how you’ve effectively overcome challenges and opportunities in the past.
  3. Network and personally connect! Hiring decisions are people decisions. Appeal to the hiring manager as a person, not just a headcount. Connect with them on a more personal level so that they find themselves liking who you are as a person, and not just liking the bullet points on your resume. Try to get personal referrals to stand out in the candidate pool and try to meet the team before you meet the hiring manager because sometimes these people can vouch for you in a casual fashion. For example, the hiring manager shares a hiring update in a team meeting and then someone on the team casually mentions that they met with you in a coffee chat and had a positive impression. This may pique the interest of the hiring manager and this could lead them to ask the recruiter to add you to the interview loop if you’re not already in it.

Please note that the Ask Karen series shares thoughts, opinions, and perspectives that are 100% based on my own experiences and conversations. The intention is to help bring clarity and perspective to the nuanced job hunting and career development journey for those who feel lost, confused, or demotivated! I hope this helps you and please feel free to share with others and submit more questions at bit.ly/ask-karen ☺️