What are overqualified candidates?
An overqualified candidate is an individual who applies for a role and holds a significantly larger amount of skills or experience than what’s requested in the job posting. A candidate is also usually considered overqualified if they’ve served in a higher-ranking position than the one they’re applying for.
For instance, if a job description for a content writer requires candidates to have at least three years of experience as a content writer and a candidate has six years of experience or they served in a content manager role, they’d be considered overqualified for the position.
Pros and cons of hiring someone who’s overqualified for a role
Hiring a candidate who’s overqualified for the role is beneficial for certain companies based on the organization’s needs and preferences and the role’s responsibilities. Here are common pros and cons of hiring an overqualified candidate:
Common advantages of hiring someone who’s overqualified for a role include:
- Gaining more quality candidates: Hiring more overqualified candidates widens the possibility of finding more valuable and quality employees who have extensive industry experience.
- Giving them the ability to move up quickly: Overqualified candidates typically have an advanced skill set and knowledge of the role before even starting with your company. This means they have the opportunity to advance more quickly to senior or managerial positions. If you hire more candidates to work in basic roles they’re overqualified for, you could have more employees working in executive-level positions in a timely manner after they’ve learned the basics of your industry and your company’s operational strategies.
- Increasing productivity and performance levels: Since overqualified candidates have experience working in a similar role or in a position above the one they’re applying for, they’re often quick, talented learners with an advanced skill set to help increase your company’s performance levels. This is especially beneficial if your company needs to quickly fill and complete certain responsibilities by an upcoming deadline as soon as they start with the company.
- Reducing training time commitment and costs: Overqualified candidates already have extensive knowledge of the role and the software used to perform effectively in the position. This means your team will spend less time, costs and resources training them on basic job duties. Instead, you’re able to focus your efforts more on training the employee on company operations or letting them get started on submitting quality work right away.
- Providing valuable input and ideas: Since overqualified candidates have worked in roles similar or more advanced than this one, they often have valuable ideas to contribute that they’ve learned and applied in their previous positions. These ideas may help increase efficiencies or boost productivity levels,
- Enhancing the skill level and abilities of other team members: These candidates typically have such a wide skill set and experience level that they have plenty of knowledge to share with their team members. They can teach them new skills and abilities that increase performance metrics in their own department or throughout the entire organization.
Common disadvantages of hiring someone who’s overqualified for a role include:
- Increases risk of turnover: Some candidates start a role they know they’re overqualified for but decide to try it out to see if they’d enjoy it anyway. This often causes them to leave for a position they feel they’re better suited for. If this continues with too many employees, your turnover rates could increase.
- Makes employees feel less challenged: If overqualified candidates are working in a role they feel they’re overqualified for and are completing tasks they’ve already accomplished in the past, they may feel the role doesn’t challenge, inspire or motivate them enough, leading to a decrease in productivity or motivation.
- Causes candidates to challenge training or guidance provided by supervisors: There are some overqualified candidates who work in positions they feel they’re overqualified for, which causes them to challenge or disagree with the guidance or instructions their supervisor provides. This leads to a negative relationship between the employee and manager, which negatively impacts performance and work quality.
- Creates a negative atmosphere: Overqualified candidates who feel unmotivated or unchallenged in their roles may feel less encouraged to complete tasks. This causes them to feel less driven, passionate and happy in their role, which can spread to other team members. This leads to a negative work environment and less motivated team members.
- Requires higher pay: Since their skill sets and experience levels are more advanced than what’s required for the role, candidates may ask for higher wages to properly compensate them for their knowledge and qualifications, which may not fit within your budget.
- May expect a quick promotion: Some employers typically hire candidates to work in a role they’re overqualified for with the intentions of eventually promoting them. Overqualified candidates may realize this and feel they’re entitled to the promotion and will expect to receive it without working hard enough to earn it.
When to consider hiring overqualified candidates
Hiring an overqualified candidate could be the best option for your company depending on your needs and the role’s responsibilities. Consider hiring overqualified candidates for a position when:
Many responsibilities must be completed quickly
If you have several tasks you need completed right away, consider hiring an overqualified candidate to finish them for you in a timely manner. They typically have advanced knowledge and experience in the role or in a higher-level position, so they know how to quickly finish important upcoming tasks with little to no guidance or training.
They have a passion for the role
Some candidates have worked in higher-level positions at previous companies and realized they enjoy the responsibilities of certain lower-level positions more. Consider hiring candidates with a true passion for the role, as this usually makes them more excited and committed to submitting valuable work.
You have temporary roles to fill
If you want to examine how well overqualified employees will perform at your company before promoting them to senior-level positions, consider hiring them to work with your organization in temporary positions. This helps you understand their skill set and strengths to determine if they’re a good fit with your company and are ready to work in an executive-level role that better fits their level of expertise.
As you consider hiring overqualified candidates to work with your company, make sure you’re still providing them a worthwhile and challenging experience. Ensuring your overqualified candidates are still happy and motivated in their roles increases the likelihood that they’ll commit to your company longer and will contribute quality work.