Stupid Reasons for Not Hiring: Issue 3 – Too Smart

This is the third in what I hope will be an ongoing series about stupid reasons employers give for not hiring someone. The first dealt with being too attractive, and the second being unemployed. This installment is based on the Comment of a reader. If you have an example of a stupid reason for not hiring someone, please share it as a Comment and I may write about it. As I mentioned in the first article, I am interested in stupid reasons, not illegal ones.

Smart employers know to hire people who are smarter than they are. If you know more than your hire, you will be micromanaging them. Not good for a long-term relationship. Plus, what advances will they bring to your company? Doubtful there will be any.

Of course, the exception is an entry-level position where you are hiring based on potential, not experience. But then you want to mentor and train. It is the best investment a company can make in its future. But only if it is an entry-level position.

There are a lot of bosses who do not want to hire people who may challenge them. These bosses should not be bosses. Someone once said, You never want to be the smartest person in the room. That’s true. And if you are the owner of the company, you never want to be the smartest person in the company. By definition, you will be the most knowledgeable about a great many things, but you don’t want to be the smartest.

Of course, if a candidate is smarter than the interviewer, they have to be smart enough not to make the interviewer feel uncomfortable or threatened. And they most definitely have to be smart enough not to appear to be an obnoxious know-it-all who is not a team player, is not willing to learn, and thinks he or she is better than everyone else. In other words, the “too smart” candidate cannot be “too smart” for their own good.


Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 350,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website,, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements. Follow him on Twitter at @HurwitzStaffing.