How to handle overqualified employees – is there a thread or risk in hiring candidates, who know too much or are more able than anyone in the company? What are the reasons for the candidates to apply for lower rank positions – is it always a paycheck? Is your hiring decision of overqualified employee going to be a disaster? Are there any benefits of employing overqualified staff? Read the article below to find out more.

Overqualified employees – table of content:

  1. Why candidates are willing to accept lower level jobs
  2. Advantages of hiring overqualified employees
  3. Disadvantages of hiring overqualified employees
  4. What keeps overqualified employees in place
  5. Summary

Why candidates are willing to accept lower level jobs

Hiring overqualified people poses a risk for employers and managers tend to avoid such practice, although the right handling of the candidate usually diminishes all possible or perceived threads. There are many reasons, why overqualified candidates decide to apply for positions that are on the level which is not matching their qualifications. Among them the most notorious ones are:

  • lack of appropriate executive roles for higher rank managers
  • exhaustion coming from long hours or constant traveling
  • need for slowing down and for more schedule flexibility
  • relocation from previous place and starting a new home
  • family issues or search for life-work balance
  • health problems and aging
  • high unemployment rates and financial losses
  • better understanding of life and need to step out

Most of the statistic figures suggest that the total number of overqualified workers increases by third each year and overqualification becomes a widespread occurrence. Some surveys made globally estimate that currently almost half of the employees have jobs that don’t match their level of education. For some countries, namely developing ones, the problem is even more acute with unemployment rates of qualified individuals reaching more than 60% of all employed.

HR managers have to carefully identify all the reasons before application of overqualified individual and eventually consider hiring overqualified candidate anyway. There is a lot of them on the job market and the numbers are still growing. In many situations waiting for the right candidate, who will not exceed the expectations of HR department, may be in vain.

Advantages of hiring overqualified employees

Creativity, ideas, input. Candidates, who are overqualified for their role and who worked in different, more advanced positions, may have unique perception of their current job or possess knowledge about other forms of organization of the company. All this may be used to introduce beneficial for the company changes.

Mentoring abilities. With high level of experience and wide set of skills overqualified employees may be able to share their knowledge with other team members. Not all the skills can be and have to be taught through formal instruction, the mere presence of highly knowledgeable individual may increase performance of the closest collaborators.

Reduction of costs related to training. In many cases, there is not even need to provide a training to the overqualified person. They themselves may have abilities to train others, although they need to be made aware of company operations.

Increased productivity. Candidates with experience tend to learn the role quickly and their performance is often excellent. They may also motivate other staff members to increase their performance.

Maturity. Overqualified employees with rich experience may be of use in emergency situations. They may step up for their managers in time of need and use their unique skills for benefit of the company.

Disadvantages of hiring overqualified employees

Boredom. There is ample of research easily to be found on the Internet on the topic of overqualification. Most of the studies reveal that there is a direct and strong correlation between overqualification and job dissatisfaction. Overqualified employees seem to develop negative job attitudes more easily, when not managed well. All this forms an easy explanation for the practice of rejecting overqualified job applicants so prevalent among HR managers.

Weak job performance. Some of the overqualified employees seem to take negative approach for their new job, they may become complacent, bored and indolent. In some situations employees, who feel that some tasks are to simple for them may even try to delegate their duties to other staff members. Mental rejection of the entrusted task is the first step to weak job performance and negligence.

Bad influence on team’s morale. Employment of any new individual changes the dynamics and the atmosphere of the workplace. Overqualified employees may be perceived as a threat to the expected advancement of other ambitious members of the team. Some employees, who feel intimidated may even decide to leave.

Obsolete knowledge. Not all information learned elsewhere is up-to-date with fast pace of current corporate world. Overqualified employees may possess knowledge which are of no use anymore. They may also stick to the practices that may bring detrimental effect on the business. To reduce the possible negative impact of obsolete knowledge some special unlearning practices have to be employed and this means cost.

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What keeps overqualified employees in place

Appreciation. All employees, not only overqualified ones, have to feel valued by the company and management. Finding the right words of appreciation is not always necessary, since it is all about emotions and perception. As long as you are able to see their efforts you should be able to let them know about your recognition.

Coworkers with talents. Overqualified employees need to form bonds and interact with others the same as other people do, but they need to have colleagues, who are on their level.

Empowerment. What often keeps overqualified employees in place is the higher level of autonomy. Employees have to feel that they have all abilities to influence and change their work environment. It is reasonable to expect high turnover rate when our staff is being treated as the next, insignificant cog in a machine.

Frequent adjustments. If it is only possible the initial role given to the overqualified candidate should be modified accordingly to the abilities of the employee and anticipated challenges. Once hired individual doesn’t have to stay in the same role forever especially if shows adequate involvement and ability to move on.

Leadership roles of the future. Well-trained, experienced and properly qualified employees should always be on the high-potential radar of their supervisors, in this situation hiring should be made always with future in mind.

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Companies hiring overqualified employees can benefit from efficiency, maturity and creativity of those individuals. The results may be reflected in additional thousands in revenue as well as in increased productivity and higher cost effectiveness. Still, do to the prevalent myth, which links overqualification with high turnover, not many companies decide to employ overqualified candidates. Impressive CVs are being rejected and great, valuable individuals are being turned down. From the perspective of the business it would be much wiser to notice that overqualified employees may be an asset for the company if only their hiring was managed properly.

Read also: 4 types of employees every company needs

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Author: Nicole Mankin

HR manager with an excellent ability to build a positive atmosphere and create a valuable environment for employees. She loves to see the potential of talented people and mobilize them to develop.