Overqualified Doesn’t Equal Unhireable
This comic by Mark Anderson is an artistic representation of a concern that employers have when faced with an overqualified applicant. We should be asking ourselves why being too qualified for a position is considered negative in the job market. Why do we penalize candidates by withholding jobs for having too much education, too many skills or too much experience? If you give underqualified candidates the opportunity to prove their potential, shouldn’t you also give overqualified applicants the chance to add value to your organization?
Unfortunately, the general perception is that overqualified applicants are flight risks, that they will have difficulty accepting direction from management, and that they won’t be team players.
While there is risk in hiring an overqualified individual, discarding their application may cause you to miss out on a quality hire. Rather than tossing their resume aside because you are questioning why someone with their qualifications isn’t applying for more challenging roles, use their interview to find out if their skills, education and experience would be beneficial to your team.
Does the title match the experience?
Find out if the job titles on their resume correspond with the skills and experience that you expect to accompany those titles. Responsibilities associated with a title can be vastly different depending on the industry, position and company; as a result, it is important that you don’t place too much emphasis on the title and not enough on actual experience. Have a conversation with the candidate during the interview to find out what their responsibilities were. Your goal in this discussion should be to find out if the titles accurately represent their body of work.
Will they respect the chain of command?
Potential employees who have more experience, education or skills than the position requires may have difficulty respecting management’s decisions. During the interview, determine if the applicant will be able to take direction from their manager, and if they will be happy being a member of a team rather than a leader. By hiring an employee who has more experience than their manager you are running the risk of setting management up to deal with a defiant employee. Find out if their qualifications will be an addition or a distraction to the team that you are hiring for.
What are their expectations?
Expectations are key when you are considering hiring any candidate, but especially one that is overqualified for the position you are hiring for. Despite the job description, they may be hoping for opportunities to advance and utilize their impressive skills.
Use the interview to have an open discussion about what they are eager to bring to the role, and if they are hoping for advancement opportunities while working for your company. Honesty is the best policy, don’t insinuate opportunities if none exist. A candidate who wants to advance, or envisions growing the position, will not be satisfied if there are limitations on how far they can go.
Keep in mind that just as an applicant who is underqualified can be an asset to a team because of their willingness to learn, an overqualified candidate can help to bring a team together with their knowledge and experience.