Josephine's Personnel Services, Inc.

Overqualified Candidates? Do Not Fear! Overcome Your Reluctance to Hire Them

January 12th, 2012

In the pre-recession days, the prevailing wisdom was to avoid hiring overqualified applicants. Hiring managers assumed they would easily become bored, lose motivation and would either underperform or leave.

But recent research shows that people who were thought to be overqualified actually performed better at their jobs. It has also shown that people rarely leave a job because they feel they’re too talented for it. People stay or leave because of working conditions, such as interpersonal conflict.

Hiring managers are soon going to be faced with an influx of highly qualified employees, as the job market inches toward recovery. Instead of disqualifying “overqualified” candidates immediately, you might be better off reconsidering your old attitude. Next time you’re looking at a stack of impressive resumes, here are a few things to consider:

Look to the Future

When making hiring decisions, don’t just focus on your current needs, but on your future needs. You never know when you might need someone to move up in the organization, and if you have qualified talent already on your payroll, it will save you a lot of time and money.

Consider Flexibility

If a person has skills that are applicable to other areas of your company, you can give them opportunities to use those skills not only for the job they were hired to do, but also in the company at large. Allowing an “overqualified” employee to use their broader skill set doesn’t just benefit the company, it also engages that person and sends the message that you value them and their experience.

Extra Motivation

“Overqualified” candidates often inject a new energy into a group by inspiring your existing team to “up their game.” They can also bridge the gap between junior and senior-level staff, allowing expertise to come from the team, not management.

More Value

When it comes to overqualified candidates, you often get more than you pay for. There’s no need to overpay, but you may have to pay at the high end of the range—knowing you’re likely to get more bang for your buck.

Bring Them On Carefully

One caveat about hiring the overqualified: Effective interviewing and onboarding are essential. Put all the cards on the table during the interview: ask the candidates directly about how they’ll handle their overqualification for the job. Ask them to convince you why they want the job and try to gauge whether they want the position for the right reasons. If you decide to hire them, set clear expectations as to where and how this person will fit into the organization—set specific job parameters.

The next time a resume from an overqualified candidate comes across your desk, don’t discard it automatically. By adjusting your perspective, you just might find that hiring an overqualified candidate is the best decision you could have made.