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The Pros and Cons of Hiring Overqualified Candidates

Overqualified candidates typically have impressive resumes and more advanced skill sets than what’s required in the job description. Some hiring managers still choose to consider these candidates for the position, while others may decide to pursue candidates with qualifications that better match the job’s specific preferences and requirements.

Learn more about which candidates are considered overqualified, the pros and cons of hiring them and when to consider adding these candidates to your team.

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What does overqualified mean in relation to the hiring process? 

An overqualified candidate is an individual who applies for a role and holds a significantly greater amount of skill or experience than what’s requested in the job posting. A candidate is also considered overqualified if they’ve served in a higher-ranking position than the one they’re applying for.

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:

Pros 

Common advantages of hiring someone who’s overqualified for a role include:

  • Gaining a higher quality candidate: Hiring an overqualified candidate provides the added value of an employee who has more 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.
  • Increasing productivity and performance levels: Overqualified candidates have experience working in similar roles, so they can get up to speed quickly, with an immediate impact on productivity This is especially beneficial if your company needs to fill a position with certain responsibilities on a deadline.
  • Reducing training time 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 and resources training them on basic job duties.
  • Providing valuable input and ideas: Since overqualified candidates have worked in roles similar or more advanced than this one, they may have valuable ideas or insights to contribute that they’ve developed through their previous positions. These ideas and insights may help increase efficiencies or boost productivity levels.
  • Enhancing the skill level and abilities of other team members: These candidates may have such wide skill sets and experience levels 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.

Cons

Common disadvantages of hiring overqualified candidates can include:

  • Increases risk of turnover: Some candidates start positions they know they’re overqualified for but decide to try them out anyway to see if they may be a good fit. This may result in job churn when the candidate decides the position isn’t a good fit after all.
  • Makes employees feel less challenged: If overqualified candidates are working in roles they feel they’re overqualified for, they may feel the roles don’t challenge, inspire or motivate them enough, leading to a decrease in productivity.
  • Causes candidates to challenge training or guidance provided by supervisors: Some overqualified candidates may challenge or disagree with the guidance or instructions of their supervisors, feeling their superior experience means they don’t have to follow company hierarchy. This can lead to a negative relationship between the employee and manager, which may impact performance and work quality.
  • Creates a negative atmosphere: Overqualified candidates who feel unmotivated or unchallenged in their roles may be less motivated to complete tasks, which can spread to other team members. This can create a negative work environment.
  • Requires higher pay: Since their skill sets and experience levels are more advanced than what’s required for the roles, 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 roles they’re overqualified for with the intention of eventually promoting them. Overqualified candidates may realize this and feel they’re entitled to the promotion without having to put much effort into earning 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 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 an overqualified candidate 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 sets and strengths to determine if they’re a good fit with your company.

If you’re considering hiring overqualified candidates to work with your company, make sure you can still provide them with a worthwhile and challenging experience. Ensuring your overqualified candidates are happy and motivated in their roles increases the likelihood that they’ll commit to your company and contribute quality work.

Interview questions for hiring overqualified candidates

If you’re thinking about hiring an overqualified candidate for a position with your company, here are some helpful questions to ask during the interview process:

Your past work experience makes you a bit overqualified for this position. What prompted you to apply?

While this question may seem a bit straight-forward, it helps hiring managers gauge an applicant’s overall intentions for the position. For example, if a candidate is only applying for the job due to a lack of openings in their preferred fields, they might be looking for part-time or temporary work until their ideal position opens up. Alternatively, the applicant may be looking to move in a new career direction and is willing to start at a level in which they may be considered overqualified. 

Are you willing to accept a lower salary than your previous job if we were to offer you this position?

In some cases, an overqualified candidate may request a higher salary than what you’re offering if they feel their overall experience can benefit your company. If the position you’re hiring for offers a set rate without room for negotiation, asking this question can help you determine how to move forward with the interview process, i.e., granting a second interview or passing on the applicant.

Frequently asked questions about hiring overqualified candidates

Can passing on an applicant because they are overqualified be considered a form of discrimination?

Passing on an applicant because their experience makes them overqualified isn’t a form of discrimination. However, if an employer uses a term such as ‘overqualified’ to indicate an individual is too old for the job, this may be considered discrimination if the applicant can prove they were not hired based on their age.

Are there any instances in which an employer should not hire an overqualified applicant?

If an employer is looking to fill a position that requires a long-term commitment, it might be a good idea to look for candidates who possess the required experience and are hoping to grow within the company. This is because in some instances, an overqualified candidate may decide to move on if an opportunity arises in their chosen field, which can contribute to high turnover and potentially leave the employer understaffed. 

Can an employer state that overqualified candidates are welcome to apply when creating a job description?

If an employer is looking to interview a mix of candidates, including those who are potentially overqualified, they can indicate in their job descriptions that individuals of all or varying skill levels are welcome to apply. Interviewing a broad range of candidates with different skill sets is particularly helpful for positions with opportunities for advancement.

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