Should You Hire an Overqualified Candidate

Should You Hire an Overqualified Candidate?

Is it possible to be overqualified for a job? It is. With the competition for jobs getting tougher daily, even overqualified candidates apply for jobs that some would argue are beneath them.

When a candidate who is looking for employment has more than the required skills, experience, academic qualification, and exposure for the role, they are overqualified. However, being overqualified can be an advantage or disadvantage to both the employer and the candidate.

Before you decide on whether you should hire an overqualified candidate or not, learn how to identify a truly overqualified candidate. Also, we will weigh the pros and cons to make a guided decision in this article.


Is the term “overqualified” used to discriminate against people?

Have you ever heard a potential employer tell someone they are “overqualified” for a job when it is not true? These are unfair methods that leave the candidate in a state of confusion. Employers sometimes label a candidate “overqualified” for various reasons that are not related to their qualifications.


One of the most unfair forms of discriminating against candidates is the “age factor.” These days, employers prefer to hire younger candidates. In an ideal situation, candidates should be judged by their qualifications and expertise. Rather, employers put an age barrier on their job advertisements to discourage people of a certain age from applying.

Knowing that judging a candidate based on their age is largely frowned upon, employers look for subtle ways to tell them that their establishment does not want them. For this reason, employers tell such candidates that they are overqualified for the job.

When employers cannot afford a candidate’s wages

One of the perks of being highly qualified is that you stand to earn more than the average person. Thus, a vastly experienced candidate would be earning a decent salary where they worked previously. When a candidate earns significantly more than what the new employer wants to offer, they conclude that such a candidate is overqualified.

While some employers make it clear that they have a problem matching those wages, others use it as a tactic to not overstretch their wage bill.

Another way to tell someone that they don’t have a good reason for not hiring them

It is not every time that an employer refuses to hire someone for the right reasons. At times, there are ulterior motives behind some hiring processes, albeit rare. In such cases, refusing to hire a candidate that is qualified for a role might raise eyebrows.

To turn down such candidates could warrant an explanation. When there is none, some recruiters choose to play the “overqualified card.” This excuse is often used especially when employers refuse to hire someone for personal reasons. Equally, employers who are unfair towards people of a certain race, religion, or nationality, give this excuse.


How to identify an overqualified candidate

More often than not, some candidates are truly overqualified. However, being overqualified for a job doesn’t mean you are qualified for any other job. Instead of having misconceptions and using the term as an excuse to get rid of candidates, there are true ways of identifying overqualified candidates. A candidate can be called “overqualified” if they fall into any or all of these categories.

Candidates who more than meet educational requirements

For every role, there is always a specified requirement regarding the academic background of each candidate. Some candidates have degrees from some of the best colleges and universities that are very impressive.

Such educational background could become intimidating, especially when it is far more impressive than anyone else’s around. This makes recruiters think to themselves, “what is this person doing in a place like this?”

For example, imagine bagging a degree in institutions such as Harvard Law only to apply to an unknown law firm in a small town. Add graduating top of your class and winning a few awards to the list. At the interview venue, it won’t be surprising to see someone tell you that you can do better.

When candidates have more advanced skills than required

Every employer wants to hire candidates who have a blend of useful skills to their credit. More often than not, employers make a list of the required skills for the job. There are times when all the listed skills are found in several candidates.

For most employers, the ideal candidate doesn’t need to have all the skills. Yet, they should possess at least more than half of the required skills. A candidate becomes overqualified for the job if they possess more than the required skills. Also, if such a candidate has more advanced skills in those areas, this makes them more qualified for the role.

Has more than the maximum required years of experience

Experience is one of the top requirements on employers’ lists. However, some candidates can be so experienced that it becomes overwhelmingly intimidating. Even if such candidates mean well, the employer would be scratching their head thinking why such a candidate would consider applying.

In a situation like this, such a candidate might have to reassure the employer that they are in touch with the times. Being vastly experienced can sometimes be confused with being outdated and out of touch with modern techniques.

More qualified than their HOD

Every establishment has a hierarchy. From managers to heads of departments, some senior employees are in charge of their junior counterparts. The head of a department or manager is usually more experienced and qualified than the rest in the department.

However, when a candidate looking to join such a department has more experience and skills than the HOD, that person is overqualified. There will hardly be any new thing to learn from the HOD and that might stunt the candidate’s growth.

When the candidate is well-known among the industry giants

An overqualified candidate is likely to have worked for big establishments throughout their career. During that period, some of their colleagues would go on to become household names in the industry. When revered professionals in the industry speak highly of a candidate, it speaks volumes. Also, it could be a sign that the candidate is out of your league.

Have probably held a higher position than the one they are applying for

This is perhaps the most glaring sign that a candidate is overqualified for a role. If a candidate has ever held a position previously that is significantly higher than what they are applying for, they are overqualified.

Instead, they should be getting jobs in managerial positions. This shows that the talent would be wasted in a subdued role. The best thing employers can do in these situations is to create a higher role for such candidates.


What you might like about hiring an overqualified candidate

Their experience will elevate their colleagues.

One of the perks of having a “rockstar” candidate is that they make others around them better. Their way of doing things will rub off on their peers sooner than later. Others begin to take some tips from such candidates which could make a lot of difference. Employers could take advantage of this by allowing overqualified candidates to train fresh candidates in the company.

You are paying less for more

Hiring an overqualified candidate is nothing short of a bargain. They give an organization more value-added services for less. Not all overqualified candidates demand a huge salary- some humble ones are grateful to work with you. The best part is when they can do more than one person’s job with ease due to their vast skills.

They can use their exposure and connections to your advantage.

When a candidate is overqualified, their huge experience brings more advantages to their new employers. Many overqualified candidates have experience in many organizations and are acquainted with influential people. These candidates will use their connections and influences for the good of any organization that hires them next.

For example, when a successful professional leaves an organization with the big-name clients they took there, their new employers inherit them. This means that your business will be introduced to more opportunities. Thanks to your overqualified candidates.


What you might not like about hiring an overqualified candidate

They might be difficult to control.

While some overqualified candidates are humble, some are not as submissive. They can be a handful. There is an amount of pride that comes with being a phenomenon. When it becomes obvious to such a candidate that the employers value him or her, things could get worse.

Taking instructions from an underqualified superior might seem beneath them. Thus, a power struggle erupts which puts the management in a difficult situation.

Superior might feel threatened.

Some superiors anticipate having their authority undermined when they have overqualified candidates in their ranks. The presence of an overqualified candidate makes some Heads of Departments feel threatened and uneasy.

Even though the overqualified candidate has no intentions of making them miserable, underqualified superiors have other thoughts. They also go as far as thinking that such a candidate is after their job. This could make the workplace toxic, which any employer would want to avoid for the greater good.

A better offer elsewhere could easily sway them.

This fear is one of the top reasons why employers don’t like to hire such candidates. In reality, many “overqualified” candidates only use such employers and their organizations as a stepping-stone to better opportunities.

Sometimes, even employers see overqualified candidates as being out of their league. Even though they would love to have them in their ranks, they know keeping these sorts of people would be a struggle. These types of candidates are mostly more qualified and exposed to their organization or the role. Instead of going through the pain of losing them sooner rather than later, they prefer to not entertain them at all.

They can be too expensive to hire.

Hiring talent is not cheap. In the same way, hiring an overqualified candidate can burn a hole in your pocket. Many employers find that overqualified candidates can be “high-maintenance”- although not every one of them. This is because they might need to have more sophisticated resources to work with than you can afford.

Most times, overqualified candidates are called “high-maintenance” because of the high salary they might command. In all fairness, they probably deserve the salary. In a sense, hiring overqualified candidates can be expensive.

Keeping these types of people is possible but it comes at a price. Such an employer would have to build the team around these candidates to see them shine more. Also, employers might have to ruffle a few feathers to accommodate them. In a word, employers would need to make changes to ensure that these “overqualified” candidates feel wanted and do not want to leave.

Hiring them might be unnecessary.

Having someone who is massively qualified and experienced has many advantages but it can be unnecessary. The temptation to hire an overqualified candidate is strong. Yet, an employer must let logic prevail.

For example, let’s consider hiring a third-grade science teacher. If a former science professor comes for the job, the temptation to hire them would be strong. However, they would be overqualified for the job and it could negatively impact the third-graders.

Such a vastly experienced candidate could end up confusing the kids with advanced scientific terms. The candidate may also find it hard to put up with the level of naivety from the third-graders.


Final thoughts

Hiring an overqualified candidate can be the best thing that could ever happen to your establishment. They make your organization look good and help you to achieve improved productivity. On the other hand, overqualified candidates can be your worst nightmare. From being difficult to control to commanding high salaries, you might not be able to keep up with them.

It is a tough choice to make. However, it all depends on the individual in question. If a candidate has enormous qualities and can get along well with everyone else in the organization, being overqualified becomes a blessing.

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