Dear Ted

I performed well at an interview for a job at the same level as my current post, but was told I was 'over-qualified'...

Ted Wragg, professor of education at Exeter University, answers your professional problems, big or small, every week. Ask him for advice - or offer some of your own - by writing to: Dear Ted, Friday magazine, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX.Or email:

I performed well at an interview for a job at the same level as my current post, but was told I was 'over-qualified'. Is this a good reason for failure?

Ted says

It is customary nowadays to debrief candidates after an interview. This is often managed skilfully, but is sometimes as subtle as crocheting lace with a sledgehammer.

Schools should think carefully about how to carry out such an important task and who should do it. One newcomer was devastated to be told, by a chairman of governors: "You just haven't got it," whatever "it" was.

The assertion that someone is "over-qualified" should rarely be true. What can the term mean? Schools are supposed to select the best candidates, and there are classroom assistants with a PhD, so should they be fired? If the school fears you might soon leave for a better job, the head should ask you. Excellent interviewees may be turned down because the successful applicant is outstanding. It then becomes difficult to explain why tiptop people this may have happened answer is to tell candidates how good the person appointed really was, not invent excuses.

Coping with rejection is difficult because we are unable to separate ourselves from our job. Tell someone you don't want them and you label them useless. Concentrate on the positive: you did well in interview, you are strongly supported by your referees and you are well qualified. Many rejected candidates land an even better job later.

If you keep getting rejections, ask your current head to phone one of the other schools in confidence and see if there is an inside story. Keep up your spirits and self-esteem, or you may appear bitter and disillusioned in future interviews. John Major was turned down for a bus conductor's job, and he went on to be prime minister. Mind you, I'm not sure what that proves.

You say

A lame excuse

Consider yourself lucky that someone has taken the time to tell you that you performed well. But it is lame to state that you are "over-qualified". It would have been more appropriate to have been told that your talents and skills were better suited to another situation. Look at this as a fortunate escape. A much better post may be waiting for you elsewhere and this stumbling block is really a stepping stone in disguise.

David Sassoon, educational consultant

Heads have their own agenda

Yes, this is frustrating - but it could be polite-speak to hide other reasons for refusal. Even though more transparency is required these days, headteachers will still choose one candidate for reasons that have nothing to do with qualifications and experience - such as economy, age, gender or personality. The panel may also have suspected that you might not stay long.

Console yourself by realising it wasn't right for you; writing an angry letter - then burning it; and learning what you can by reflecting on the interview. Then put it behind you and apply for the next interesting post you see. Better luck next time.

Angela Pollard, Rugby

Schools cannot afford to take the risk

In the current climate, I agree with the panel's decision. The high cost of appointing staff means that schools cannot afford the risk of new recruits leaving for promotion elsewhere. If you are over-qualified, that risk is increased, and the likelihood is that you will move on when promotion opportunities arise, leaving the school to pay for another round of adverts, shortlisting and recruitmentselection.

Paul Woodcock, Lincoln

Others are fobbed off, too

Poor quality interview feedback does little for the profession, but teachers are not alone. I have experience in recruiting for industry and this feedback response is more widespread than you would imagine, and rarely to do with qualifications. You could be more experienced than your immediate line manager. Your strengths could threaten and destabilise other members of the team. Your previous role could have been more wide-ranging and the employer believes you would feel constrained in the new post. There are many permutations.

As an outsider, you would be unaware of considerations and tensions that have to be balanced by the appointments panel as they struggle to give feedback against complex, sensitive and often subjective issues. Frustrating, yes. But take heart, you probably were too good for that job.

George Wells, Warrington

Head could have checked before interview

Your experience is ludicrous. Each person has a variety of reasons for applying for a job, and you have the right to make a sideways move. Does this mean that the only way to move is to progress upwards? Surely the head would have considered your current experience before inviting you for interview? Given the recruitment crisis, I would have thought they'd have jumped at the chance to employ somebody who had already walked the walk. Possibly this reason was a simple and flattering way of explaining why you didn't get the job - without having to admit simply to personal preference.

I was once advised that if you are Superman and they are looking for Batman, it doesn't matter how good you are at being Superman - the interviewers will have some other blueprint in mind.

Elizabeth Moore, email

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