I didn't get the job because he thought I was TOO SMART?!?!?

I don’t usually come down here to the pit, but I really need to vent.

Last year, I was absolutely miserable at my job. I’m still friends with people who work there, and even they call it “the war zone.” Just not a good environment. So, I went job hunting. I’m in Silicon Valley, so the pickings were slim.

I really, really, really wanted to leave law firm life to go into a corporation. And not even for the wrong reasons! Most patent guys want to go in-house because they think it’s a cushy position that lets you slide. I didn’t want to slide. I wanted to work hard and do a good job for a company. I happen to think I have a skill set that makes me better suited to in-house duties (esp. when it comes to making business decisions).

Well, the job market sucks and, although I got a half-dozen or so interviews, I just couldn’t make the cut. So, I bit the bullet and moved on to another law firm. I’m not particularly happy. Sure, the people are much nicer than the war zone. Everyone is friendly and nobody wants to stab you in the back. However, the tyranny of the billable hour is sucking the life out of me. While I may not yet be dead inside, I’m getting there.

I know I don’t do well in interviews. My resume is impressive enough that it gets me in the door, but I know the stink of desperation emanates off of me. I try to act cool, but I want the job so badly.

Fast forward to today. I find out that a colleague at my law firm happens to know a secretary at one of the corporations I interviewed. Somehow, she remembers me. Her boss apparently decided to pass on me BECAUSE HE THOUGHT I WAS TOO SMART. Dear god, how can anyone decide that their attorney is TOO SMART? Would you pass on a doctor who is too smart?

Here I am, at 8:20pm, still at work, my children are probably already in bed – just another day they don’t see Daddy – and I find out I was passed over because I was too goddamn smart.

The Boss sounds like an insecure jackass who is afraid of being shown up.

Welcome to the world of being “over-qualified” for a job. In other words, the boss is afraid you will show him (her?) up as neuroman says.

It’s also an insecurity issue. Yeah, you have more qualifications than they need (at the moment) and if they employ you, you’re bound to leave for a better position way too early, or so the excuse goes. So they will find someone who just about fits for the job, in the mistaken belief that person will stay a bit longer, learn a few things and the boss can squeeze them dry. The reality is anyone who is good at what they do and a self-starter is always looking beyond today, and tomorrow.

As I said, it’s an insecurity issue. Unfortunately, in my humble experience it is a vastly widespread belief and shows no signs of abating. It’s an excuse which promotes mediocity, stagnation and lack of vision, among other things.

Ever notice all those management books on the best seller lists? People buy them for alleged quick ways to be better at managing, supervising and making decisions. They all follow the tried and true bean counter approach – do this and that will happen.

Only the really good books, and bosses, delve into innovation, taking chances and trusting your gut.

The boss you might have had has no guts. Or if he has a gut, a big one at that, he can’t see his shoes, … or anything else beyond it, either.


Are you sure that’s the reason you’re being passed over? Usually interviewers want you to show enthusiasm and passion for the job, even if it’s completely phony.

Anyway, at least you’re getting interviews. I have two degrees and 20 years of professional experience, and I can’t even get a fucking interview. I swear, this is a White Collar Depression that we’re going through.

I’ve had that experience.
The most memorable time was when a homeowner and I were talking about some work to be done (I’m a cabinetmaker) on his home. Everything was going so well. He asked to see my work, so I showed him my portfolio.
When he saw it he really got solemn and said, “You’re too good for me.”
Yeah, sure, big stroke to my ego. Bullshit!
Thanks for the work asshole!
The Leading Index of Forbin Economic Outlook looked like shit at the time. I needed the work.
I assured him that plain old cabinets were something I could; and would do for him.
To no avail. I was pretty much given the bum’s rush out of his house.

That may be part of the reason. But, if that was the whole reason, I doubt the OP would come to know of it.

But since the interviewer did communicate this “problem” to his/her secretary, I suspect that the reason OP wasn’t hired is because

  1. The boss thought that job for the OP would be a temporary stop.
  2. Since he’s too smart, the the boss perceived that the OP might get arrogant on the job and not be conducive to orders. For a smooth functioning, an adequate employee is often better than an amibitious one.

Obviously, that’s probably translated as “too expensive for me.”

Yep, it did.
I told him he didn’t need Gucci cabinets though.
We could do Walmart cabinets.
My point is that he was the one who wasn’t accomodating, not me!

Hey, Pencil Pusher, d’you think if we collected a bunch of our responses to your posts, he’d reconsider his opinion and offer you a job?

  • ::: g, d, & r ::: *


–Kathleen Turner, Body Heat. She was talking to a lawyer, played by William Hurt, when she said it.


I think you’ve dodged a bullet.

Anyone remember that guy in New England who applied to be a cop? He was turned down because he scored too high on his intelligence test.

Not just in New England; my best friend (MS in physics) was turned down by the Santa Monica PD for basically the same reason.

I interviewed for a job once, writing and editing the newsletter and annual report for a large corporation. That job was perfect for me, and I wanted it badly.

The interviewer told me privately that I wasn’t going to get the job, even though I was the best candidate. The VP of that division had told the interviewer he was afraid I’d jump ship after a year or so.

I assured the interviewer that wasn’t the case, that I was looking for a position in a company from which I could retire in 30 years. I even offered to come to work for an amount of money less than they were offering, because their benefits package was fantastic. No go. They hired somebody less qualified, and wound up firing the person a year later because they couldn’t do the job properly. Idiots.

The trouble with hiring someone who is over qualified is that people tend to leave when something better comes along. If you are really over qualified then something better is probably going to come along sooner rather than later and this guy will have to go through his search for someone again.

Whether or not the “too smart” comment was just a nice way to give the brush off or not, it is not necessarily a bad business or unwise employment practice to not consider someone for a particular position because they are “too smart”. There are a lot of both white collar and blue collar jobs out there where a keen mind and a restless intellect are not always the best tools to bring to the table nor do they bode well in practical terms for probable long term employment.

If I was interviewing for beat cop postions and a guy came in with a tested 145 IQ, I would have very serious reservations about about any expectation of getting a long term career out of this person or even great performance in the job itself, as high intelligence and practical street smarts do not always march hand in hand.

HR people in large corporations and businessmen aren’t simpletons and they recognize that if someone comes in the door with intellectual horsepower several standard deviations above the norm for a fairly mundane job they probably aren’t going to last as they will become bored or move on fairly quickly to better things. A lot of the time this prejudice is based on the hard experience of hiring very smart people for mundane jobs and seeing months or years of training walk out the door when they get fed up or bored.

It may not be nice to discriminate against brainiacs but (depending on the job at hand) it always isn’t irrational to do so.

Yeah, you’re probably right Gyan9, I’m sure insecurity wasn’t the whole reason. Hiring someone who is vastly overqualified may be a mistake, but not hiring someone who is somewhat or slightly overqualified seems silly as well. I could understand not hiring an IT manager to do tech support, but don’t shooing off a former project leader for a junior programming position, for example.

Bear Bryant, the famous college football coach, once made a statement to the effect that he refused to hire anyone who wasn’t smarter than him. He figured he could handle the overall management of the team, but he wanted his assistants to be able to think through problems and solve them on the fly.

I apreciate the input. Its a new day, I’m feeling better. I ate breakfast with my kids. I get cranky when I go a couple of days without seeing them awake.

Those of you who said I dodged a bullet are correct. In fact, the reason the secretary got into contact with my colleague is because the company is going under and she is looking for a job. Its a sinking ship.

Its just that job searches are just horribly traumatic for me. Rejection is not easy.

BTW, I’ve been involved in the hiring other attorneys for several years. I don’t know how many times I’ve told the people who actually make the hiring decisions that someone doesn’t need to be a lifer. If it takes 6 months to bring them up to speed, and they do good work for two years before leaving, you’ve won. If they just stay for one year, you’ve broken even and are no worse off.

In most jobs that I have gotten I let the interviewer know right off that bat that I wanted the job…badly.