Whenever you post a new job, you probably receive dozens of resumes from a wide variety of candidates. One may stand out; his or her experience, education/credentials, title, and skills placing her high above the rest of the pack.

They may look like the perfect candidate for the job, but you hesitate because they appear too good to be true.

You feel that she is “overqualified” for the job, so you do not seriously consider her for the position. This missed opportunity is not an uncommon one.

Recruiters and hiring managers have traditionally failed to place overqualified candidates in the applicant pool because of several presumed risks – many of which are not true.  These include that the person has to be:

  • bored
  • unmotivated
  • looking for a stop-gap job until something better comes along

However, this seems not to be the general case.  In a recent study conducted at Portland State University, it was found that people rarely switch jobs because they feel that they are too “good” or talented for the job.  They move on because of the work conditions.

More times than not, there are sizable benefits to hiring an overqualified person…benefits that become crystal-clear when you begin to think about the future and not just your immediate need.  Some of these benefits overqualified candidates bring to the table include:

  •  Capability to “hit the ground running”.  Most likely they have had the same responsibilities in a prior role, so they can begin working and quickly add value. Their learning curve is short, and they can leverage their vast history and experience to do the job efficiently and effectively.
  • Add value beyond the role. They tend to approach the job differently. They can think beyond the role and see other issues and possibilities, because they have seen similar (if not the same) situation(s) in different environments, etc. The breadth they bring enables them to provide a broader perspective of the role; one that they are eager to implement.
  • Provide built-in bench strength to the organization.  Since the overqualified employee has had a larger role, they can expand their responsibilities. This could mean anything from expanding the role to include more or being able to step into a new senior position if and when the opportunity arises.
  • Afford Mentoring Capabilities.  An overqualified employee could not only mentor “junior” employees, which is a proven method for helping new hires integrate more effectively with the company.  This will assist you with your entire onboarding program.  In addition, providing a qualified mentor could challenge more seasoned employees to achieve higher levels of performance.
  • Provide higher productivity and growth opportunities that are not being currently planned.  Overqualified employees can help you develop and grow opportunities that have not been addressed before.  They may bring an extensive contact list that could be leveraged or simply a new way of looking at the business landscape that could lead to new and more profitable opportunities.

There are no absolutes in the process of sourcing and placing talent.  Candidates and work environments are vastly different.  Both parties need to enter into the situation with a different set of expectations – companies need to provide the employee opportunities to leverage their “surplus skills” and the employee needs to manage the job at hand.

This is where Snelling comes in. We work with clients is many different industries and sectors, across the country.  As a new client of ours, we will come to you and learn your business, including your plans for expansion and growth.

We will then leverage our expertise to build the best solution geared specifically for your needs.  Whether you need a short-term staffing solution or the best talent available for a long-term project, Snelling is here to help.  Visit our office locator page to locate your local Snelling office today.

This article has 11 comments

  1. Kristine Holland Reply

    The challenge to a companies which do employ ‘over-qualied staff’, is to communicate these positive benefits with existing staff; and to monitor the working environment with gentle gloves. This will hopefully short-circuit the inevitable professional jealousy syndrome.

    • davidallen Reply

      Excellent point – I have always believed that communication is the lynchpin to a successful corporate environment.

      Thank you for your comment!

  2. Angela Reply

    Nobody is overqualified if the company is a real WINNER… Nobody can be too much if the company wants to grow. “You will be bored here” “You will leave soon” … Yes but only if your company doesn’t have ambition to grow, or the leader is scared to delegate. This is a small mentality for people with low or inexistent leadership. A real leader, a real winner, always wants THE BEST on his/her team. If you think someone is too much to be part of your team… maybe he/she is… Maybe it is time to review the goals of your company though.

  3. Sandra Stengrim Hicks Reply

    There are many advantages to hiring on “overqualified” person for a job.
    I came from a Radio Broadcasting Industry where stations were bought out by new companies on a frequent basis. These companies usually wanted to hire their own people to fill the existing positions. I saw one station fall from #1 in the market to the bottom of the charts. This resulted with total failure. Format changes took place thus creating an entirely different market that was needed to be reached. More money was spent unsucessfully. The call letters were then given back to the original frequency where again they thrived. Had the station kept the tried and true staff that they with whom they started, all of this could have been avoided Many very talented on air personalities sit at home unemployed until someone refers them to an out of the area radio station. They click there and are on their way again. Obviously, it is not the on air personality with the problem. That person ultimately rises again to the top like cream. This shows the benefit of hiring a seasoned pro versus an untried talent. Account executives suffer the same fate for another reason during a change like this. A person with an established account list may be replaced just so that the major accounts become “house accounts” thus avoiding a sales commission. A season pro with that 150 contact list still has a rapport with his cliets. It is of great benefit for another station to hire that person over a less experienced rookie. Any station would be foolish not to snap up the season profssional over the rookie with no knowledge of the market. I left one station due to a personal issue. I changed to another job in another state. I was actually located by contacting my mother for another positon in the same market. I was instantly the top biller again because I already had the knowledge of the business, the market knowledge, the contacts still in my possession. The seasoned professional can be effective much more quickly than one who has never had any job training at all. Why not hire this type of person? It is an advantage not a disadvantage. Anyone who throws away a seasoned professional over a rookie in any line of work is missing out on a magnificent opportunity for a good employee in my opinion.

  4. BB Reply

    I absolutely agree with you. There is the standing perception that hiring anyone over qualified will be detrimental to a company. I have been unemployed for approximately two and one half years. I have applied many times for positions (and with excitement) where I would have been considered overqualified. I finally began to suspect that employers may have been afraid to hire me. Your article affirms that and more. However, I am a person that has given 100% of myself to any position I have had no matter where I found myself within the company ranks. I enjoyed giving my best and finding ways to improve my position–leveraging my experience in ways which allowed me to do my job more efficiently and to be more effective. This should be of benefit to any company. I hope that this article will assist in bringing about a much-needed change in hiring managers’ perceptions. Well done.

  5. KS Reply

    Thanks for the article. I’ve rode the roller coaster all the way to the top. Earlier in my career it was the ” you are not qualified for this position!” Then it was, “well you seem like a good candidate, but you’ve never made a long commute and don’t understand a big city like NYC”, to now after working internationally for 3 years in an Executive role, ” you are overqualified, why are you here”, this one is very tough to sell. Your insights help me with perspective, employers often do not understand or know when they have talent let alone how to harness and work with talented people.

  6. Helga Schauer Reply

    Thank you for the this article. I do not understand the term “overqualified”. I have an IQ above 145. Throughout my career I have been discriminated against because of my intelligence. The things I have accomplished,non-the-less, astound most people. I love being smart and achieving. Yet I would love to work with a team of people who are at my level, so that I can go through life without the jealousies and fears of those with less active grey matter.
    Contact me if you would like to place me in such an environment.

  7. Wayne Reply

    My experience is that companies really want unquestionning drones, not staff that might know more than management.

    Certainly, a younger generation fears that their competenance will not match that of older personnel and will usually be amenable to easing experienced personnel out the door and avoiding hiring similar later on.

  8. ML Reply

    Companies with big vision sort out the best candidates to help carry out their vision while companies with small vision look for excuse to stay the same and label ambitious job applicants as overqualified by HR departments. I like to ally my expertise with a company that is not afraid to hire the best candidates to achieve their goals not companies that are afraid of changes or fresh ideals. I am a winning/ seasoned Job applicant looking for that company willing to succeed.

  9. Patricia Reply

    I don´t really know if the worse opcion is not to hire overqualified staff for not having ambition or to hire overqualified staff for doing an unqualified jobs when they are actually employing to develope more responsabilities.

  10. Michelle Reply

    Great article. I have recently dropped the “VP” from my title when applying for jobs since I think it scares some employers into thinking I am over-qualified. But I am trying to make the leap from vendor-side to client-side market research and I realize I may need to go down a rung or two, so I am trying to “dumb down” my title. Sad.


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