Are you automatically screening out candidates that you consider overqualified for your open positions? Unfortunately, this routine elimination of applicants with more education and experience than is specified in the job description happens all too often, to the detriment of both job seekers and companies. In fact, according to business management consultant F. John Reh (Hiring Overqualified Workers), you may be losing out on potentially exceptional employees by screening out highly motivated candidates because their resumes are more extensive or impressive than you expected.
Ruling out everyone beyond the minimum requirements could mean that applicants with more education or years of experience never have an opportunity to demonstrate in an interview that they could be the best candidates for your open positions. As a result, you could end up spending more time training and developing less qualified employees while passing up those who could have done the job well from day one.
There is actually a big upside to hiring the overqualified, says business writer Amanda Johnson (This is What Happens When You Hire an Overqualified Candidate). She believes that rather than ignoring overqualified candidates, employers should view them as valuable investments for their company. As career expert Heather R. Huhman points out (10 Reasons to Hire Overqualified Candidates), overqualified candidates bring valuable skills, often have leadership qualities, can be easier to train on new systems and often are willing to start at a lower salary to get a foot in the door.
Hiring overqualified employees can produce positive results in several important ways, including:
- The expertise that overqualified candidates bring to their role can translate to new and creative ideas to improve company systems and processes. Experienced employees are often willing to take on projects that will allow them to put their expertise to work and give them the opportunity to grow within the position and the company.
- Overqualified candidates are often easier to manage because of their experience in the workforce, which means they are more self-sufficient and willing to hold themselves accountable for their work and time management. This higher level of experience and self-sufficiency means that managers won’t have to spend extra time holding their hand through every project, which results in greater efficiency.
- An experienced employee has already been on the workplace frontlines and is more likely to be ready and willing to step up to the most challenging tasks. In fact, giving overqualified employees more difficult projects can help hold their interest and make it more likely that they will become long-term employees.
Rather than screening out overqualified applicants, consider using the interview process to uncover why they are applying for lower paying and lower level positions. Are they trying to fill the pay gap between jobs? Do they need long-term benefits? Are they hoping for a more flexible schedule? Are they relocating? Getting to know candidates in an interview can allow both of you to determine if your open positions are the right fit for them and your company.
You may be concerned that overqualified often means older. Your company may already be seeing more overqualified/older applicants, and you may be hesitant to hire employees beyond a certain age. However, the future workforce is trending older, a trend that is not likely to be reversed (see Older Workers Are a Valuable Talent Pool on the SHRM blog). According to AARP, Americans 55 and older make up slightly less than a quarter of the nation’s labor force, but they filled almost half (49%) of the 2.9 million jobs gained in 2018—the biggest share of any age group. We are living longer and having fewer children, and as a result, populations—and our workforces—are going to get older.
Record unemployment rates and extreme talent shortages may prompt you and many other employers to open your recruiting and hiring process to include overqualified, and thus often older, applicants. Focusing on the benefits rather than the challenges of hiring overqualified candidates will help make this transition smoother and more successful.