Too good to hire? Don’t overlook overqualified candidates.
It is fairly common for an employer to receive CVs from ‘overqualified’ candidates, who have more education, skills or experience than the role requires. The traditional approach has been to automatically reject these candidates as too ‘risky’, even if they would certainly be able to handle the role.
In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of hiring an overqualified candidate and why some employers are beginning to reconsider their approach.
What does overqualified mean?
Candidates are typically described as overqualified when they have more experience, skills or education than specified in the person specification for a role. For example, an employer may be looking for someone with a couple of year’s previous experience in a role, but receive applications from jobseekers with over ten year’s experience. Or a role could require someone with a bachelor’s degree, but candidates with master’s degree could apply.
However, it’s important to note that just spent a lot of time working or in education does not necessarily make a candidate overqualified. If that education or experience is not directly relevant to the role, they are really starting at the same level as any other candidate. It’s very important to steer clear of any sort of age discrimination when deciding if a candidate is overqualified or not; simply having worked for a long time is not the same thing.
Traditional objections to overqualified candidates
When a vacancy requires a particular skill set or level of experience, you might assume that a candidate who exceeds these expectations would be snapped up, but many organisations are reluctant to consider overqualified candidates. These are the most common reasons:
- They are only using this role as a placeholder and will leave as soon as a better opportunity comes along
- Overqualified candidates will expect a higher salary than is budgeted for the role
- They will not be challenged and fully engaged with the role and will therefore become bored, unproductive and unhappy. This could then have a knock-on effect on the morale of the rest of the team
How overqualified candidates actually perform
Candidates apply for roles for a huge variety of reasons and it’s important not to assume that an overqualified jobseeker’s motivation is simply desperation to get a job. Reasons a candidate may apply for a job they are overqualified for include:
- Looking to downshift and find a better work/life balance
- Wanting to change careers into a new sector or role
- Searching for a more meaningful job role
- Moving to a new location
- Getting a foot in the door at your organisation
Research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology has shown that overqualified employees actually perform better than their colleagues and are more loyal, enthusiastic and will to suggest new ideas. And if a team contains two or more employees typically described as overqualified, it will experience a ‘halo effect’ which improves the performance and the morale of the entire team.
What overqualified candidates can bring to the table
There are a wide range of benefits to hiring an overqualified candidate, which may be less obvious to employers. These include:
- Being able to pick up work more quickly, relieving the pressure of covering that role from the rest of the team
- Adding to your organisation’s diversity by bringing in new skills and life experience, which allows them to bring in a different point of view
- Overqualified candidates can often prove more loyal than traditional employees, as their motivations are not simply around getting paid more or getting promoted
- Having more skills or experience than is immediately required for a role makes an employee more flexible for the future and means they could help your organisation grow
- Overqualified employees can mentor and train other team members, helping to improve the skill set and productivity of the whole team
Interviewing overqualified candidates
Being honest about the salary, benefits and promotion prospects right from the start will help keep everyone’s expectations at the same level and weed out any overqualified candidates who are really interested in a higher-level role.
Deciding if an overqualified candidate is really suitable for a role is all about determining their motivations for applying and attitude towards the job, and this is best done at the interview stage. Questions like “Can you describe your favourite job from the past and what you did?” or “What did you not like doing in former jobs?” can help you determine how serious they are about the role and if they are likely to be a good cultural fit. You should be able to gather enough information at this stage to decide if the candidate has enough enthusiasm and interest in the role to overcome any potential drops in salary or responsibility.
Organisations that automatically reject overqualified candidates could be missing out on fantastic candidates who can both get up to speed quickly and benefit the business in the long term. Being open to overqualification gives you both a bigger pool of qualified candidates to choose from and an opportunity to boost your team as a whole.
If you’re looking for the very best marketing candidates, why not get in touch today and see how we could help?