When hiring a new employee, it is inevitable to stumble across an individual who is simply just too overqualified for the position. It seems like the easiest solution would be to tell them that they are overqualified and move on. Nevertheless, many managers have missed out on the ideal employee because they eliminated “overqualified” candidates without giving them much of a chance. When looking for the ideal individual, one would generally look for someone who has the required skills and experience but will still be challenged and engaged by the work they are given. This person would be able to jump right in confidently and fit right into the team perfectly. He/She can work independently and think outside of the box while being able to take directions well. Many believe that someone who is overqualified might struggle with these requirements.
So, what does overqualified mean?
It refers to an individual who has a higher educational background than what is required for the position. It could also mean someone who has too many years of experience in that particular industry. By taking the job, they would be taking a step down the progression ladder. That being said, there is always misunderstandings over the definition of the term. It is specifically defined sa meeting and surpassing the skill requirement of that particular role. Having a high education and a lot of experience in general doesn’t over-qualify someone. Take the time and make the effort to get to know the person before you decide to pass on them. Many managers also interpret the term as a sugarcoated break up line that they use when they are unwilling to take the risk of hiring someone with too much experience.
The main risk is the concern of overqualified candidates having less job satisfaction and wellbeing when they step down. Researchers also directly correlates over qualification with dissatisfaction and the growth of a negative job attitude. This could potentially lead to poor performance. Employees who believe they are too talented for the job could become complacent, bored and begin to work on auto-pilot. They might try to delegate work to others or just not do the work altogether. Ultimately it could result in a decline in the health of the employee. You may fear that these employees could get bored and leave when a better opportunity comes along. They may even demand for more money in exchange for their stay. Secondly, when a new employee is hired, other employees will usually gather to create a first impression of the new hire. They would fear for how this new employee’s presence might affect the current atmosphere in the workplace. Having someone who is much more qualified than them could be seen as a threat. Their chances at being promoted could be threatened if there is an individual who can easily do their job as well. This kind of mentality is what could eventually drive out current employees.
However, the assumption that a person would be bored and choose to underperform or leave may be more perceived than real. A professor of Management at the Portland State University, Berrin Erdogan conducted research and found that candidates who were overqualified actually performed better and they rarely leave because they are too talented for the position, they leave because of bad working conditions.
It takes a manager with a lot of bravery to take such a great risk of hiring someone overqualified. While it could be an expensive mistake to make, it could also reap great benefits
These individuals do not require the same amount of training as others with less experience. They would be able to generate a better return on investment as more work can be done when a manager does not have to hold the hand of the employee. These individuals would also be able to bring in new ideas and experiences to the team. They are also likely more self-sufficient, will be able to hold themselves accountable for their own work and are generally easier to manage because of their experience in the workforce. When someone with more knowledge joins the team, they bring expertise and can also serve as mentors for the younger employees with less experience. This makes them an asset to the team morale and development. Last but not least, they are more likely to step up. With more experience on the front lines, overqualified candidates are going to be more willing to take on some of the most challenging roles while others may be more hesitant. They could also bring in expertise in areas that are not represented presently.
It would be wise to always think about the overall talent needs that your organization requires now and in the future. If you intend on hiring a candidate who is overqualified, try to shape the position to accommodate his/her skillset. When you onboard them, be clear about your plans for them so they understand where they stand in the organization. Avoid defining the process of hiring for a position a finding one person per role. Remember not to confuse experience and education with skills. Even if an individual has a lot of experience may not have the right capabilities to do the job.
Now when deciding on whether taking the risk of hiring someone who is overqualified, asking oneself the following questions might help.
Why are they applying for a job that is below their qualifications?
There could be many reasons for this choice. When the economy is in a decline, markets are full of overqualified individuals who are more desperate for a job. Applying for this position could potentially be more of need than a want. Some could have also been put out of a job because of their children, illness or retirement. This could be them looking for a way back into the workforce. They could also be hoping for a less demanding career that would better suit their work-life preference. Do not make preconceived judgements on their reasons for wanting this position. If they are not expecting anything more than what you can provide them, this could be a winning match.
What do they expect and want from this job?
Are they hoping to step down and look for an easier career or are they hoping for an eventual upgrade? When they come down for the interview, ask them. Before assuming that they would fall into the category of dissatisfied individuals, understand their needs. Similar to the point above, they could simply be hoping for a simple job that they would be content in. If they have the right mentality, having someone with the extra experience and knowledge might reap great benefits.
Is there an opportunity for growth that might require their skills in the future?
This is probably the most important question to consider. Even if they might not be hired for a long-term arrangement, could there be a use for their skills? Could the younger employees need mentorship that this particular individual could provide? Having someone with so much more experience in the workforce often comes with skills that can help grow the company. They also come with connections, thus potentially opening doors to business growth and opportunities.
Berrin Erdogan also shared two ways to keep these employees happy in your company. The first is providing them with a voice. Giving them the empowerment and ability to influence their work environment rather than make them take the passive approach. The second is, of course, appreciation. It goes a long way. If an employee feels valued by the company and management, they are more likely to stay.
In conclusion, hiring an overqualified applicant is not always a bad decision despite still being a frightening risk. If you can take the time to understand the needs and reasons of the applicant, you might just find the perfect candidate for the job.
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