Why You Should Always Hire Overqualified People


I recently read a social media connection’s lamentation regarding his job search. His frustration stemmed from being continually passed over due to his being “overqualified” and it got me thinking:

Why would you NOT want to hire someone who’s overqualified?

There are many problems with the way companies hire today (the details of which are a conversation for another day). Not least among these problems is the tendency to put candidates in pre-defined boxes. HR professionals do this with the candidates’ education, their experience, their skills and many other factors.

While this is a logical method of ranking potential new hires, often they wind up eliminating the top candidates because they are “overqualified”. In the majority of instances, there are two primary reasons for this:

Financial – They believe that the candidate will be “too expensive”.

Assumptions – They believe that the candidate will “get bored” or “leave as soon as they find something better”.

Both of these reasons are flawed.

The Financial Reason

Hiring managers see what they perceive as an overqualified candidate and their mind immediately goes to their budget. Let’s remember that hiring is an investment, not an expense.

The goal is to get the best person to fill the role. Yes, every business has financial constraints which they must work within but deal with that later. Focus on the candidates first and the economics once you’ve developed a short list.

Pro Tip:
If you posted a salary range with your job description, then you can assume that the candidate is willing to work within that range, or at least close to it. The compensation range was presumably acceptable to the applicant or they wouldn’t have applied, right?

In many cases you will find that your overqualified candidate truly is out of your price range. It happens. A lot.

If that’s the case and you’re unable to find a way to make it work, then you have no choice but to move on. But don’t make that decision until you’ve had the chance to thoroughly vet the applicant and review your financials to see if it’s doable.

The Assumptions

The other common reason to eliminate an overqualified applicant is because the HR professional assumes that the candidate will get bored or will leave at the earliest opportunity.

The problem with this is that the applicant has reasons that you know nothing about.

Perhaps they’re looking for a change of pace or they see a lower level position as a way to get a foot in the door. Maybe their priorities have shifted which has prompted them to look for something different.

I’ve known many people that have given up management positions for roles with less authority and responsibility. Often, this was due to a shift in their personal priorities as they got older (or should I say, “more experienced”). You never know why candidates are interested in the opening. Don’t assume.

Don’t misunderstand, concerns about a potential hire getting bored or leaving soon are certainly valid. But these concerns should not be used to screen someone out.

That’s what interviews are for.

We also need to consider that the average employment tenure is dramatically shorter than it used to. When I started my career, periods of employment that were only one or two years would put you in the “job-hopper” category.

Now, it’s the new normal. So, if you hire someone that’s overqualified and they leave in a couple years, so what? You still got the benefit of their skills and experience while you could and if you did it right, your business is better for it.

Benefits of an Overqualified Worker

Overqualified workers, by definition, have a broader range of knowledge, experience and maturity. They bring ideas that others may not have. They bring the lessons that they’ve learned from past experience and can apply them to their new role in your enterprise.

Managers are threatened by talent. Leaders welcome it.

With their additional qualifications, they help you build your bench. They are more easily promotable and able to fast-track through your organization. Accomplishments are more easily achieved. They help raise the performance bar for all of your employees. They can mentor others and help them improve their skills as well.

Finally, overqualified workers help you build a better mouse trap. We’ve learned over the years that it’s far better to utilize peoples’ strength than it is to put them in a box.

How Overqualified Workers Benefit Innovation

Why not take the opportunity to engage in a little job crafting? You now have a more talented person at your disposal than you planned. Why not let them make the best use of their talents by adjusting their role to capitalize on what they’re good at?

All of this benefits your business. So, I’ll ask again:

Why would you NOT want to hire someone who’s overqualified?

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Kevin A. Nye

I am a dynamic and seasoned operations executive with over 20 years of rich experience in leading diverse teams and driving organizational growth across multiple sectors. Possessing a strong track record in strategic planning and execution, I excel in transforming challenges into opportunities. Having served in roles in Supply Chain, Operations, and Regional management, I was previously the Chief Operating Officer of a regional steel company, Director of Operations for a third-generation family-owned citrus packing company, and served on the Boards of Directors of Sunkist Growers and Fruit Growers Supply.

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