Editor’s note: This is the second of two posts offering 20 reasons why ‘overqualified’ candidates make good hires. This article first appeared as a single post on our sister site, ERE.net. Though aimed at corporate recruiters, it offers good advice and powerful ammunition for search consultants when discussing great, if ‘overqualified’ candidates with hiring managers and HR contacts. With the talent pool for top performers getting smaller every day, passing up qualified candidates because of too much experience or too impressive a previous title can mean the loss of the placement and the fee.
Yesterday, I listed 10 reasons hire the overqualified candidate. Today, I’ll list 10 more.
The 20 different reasons or benefits associated with hiring overqualified candidates fall into three categories: 1) recruiting/ business impacts; 2) reasons to be suspicious of qualifications; and 3) actions to mitigate potential problems. Yesterday’s 10 were all in the first category, which is where we pick up today.
Recruiting and Business Impacts
11. They may be a self-motivated professional – If you are hiring a professional who is overqualified, it is highly likely that their professionalism and self-pride will drive them to perform and excel, regardless of what job they are currently in.
12. Avoid serious legal issues –There are no legal justifications for using “overqualified” as a rejection factor. In addition, because having excess qualifications are often directly correlated with age, refusing to hire the overqualified candidate can create serious EEOC issues. And since older individuals are highly likely to complain, litigate, and also serve on juries, I don’t recommend refusing to hire the overqualified without hard data supporting the fact that they have a low probability of on-the-job success. Any legal issues are likely to be compounded if you don’t specifically state that in your position description that one of the qualifications for the position is not being “overqualified.”
Why you should be suspicious about most qualifications:
13. Most jobs specifications are inaccurate anyway – Most jobs specifications are not scientifically determined. That’s because jobs themselves are now changing rapidly. As a result, many job descriptions are highly inaccurate. Simple analysis will often reveal that many of your current top-performing workers have less, more, or a different set of qualifications than those found in the position description. So don’t make hiring decisions based on qualifications where “having them” or “not having them” may have little impact with on-the-job performance.
14. Even accurate qualifications may have a short shelf life – With so many new technologies, practices and products, most current qualifications quickly become obsolete. This means that whether the candidate has the right amount or excess qualifications, all of them may quickly become obsolete. And this means that the ability to learn rapidly and adapt may be more important than a close examination focusing exclusively on a candidate’s existing qualifications.
15. The candidate may not be as overqualified as you think – We know that many individuals exaggerate on their resumes and during interviews. And as a result, it’s quite possible that the actual skill set of an overqualified candidate may turn out not to be significantly higher than the average candidate.
Minimizing potential over-qualification problems
16. Identify if hiring manager insecurity is the underlying reason for rejection – The real reason why overqualified individuals are not hired may be related to insecurities on the part of the hiring manager. You certainly don’t want hiring managers to hurt your firm by selfishly refusing to hire over-qualified individuals simply because they fear that they may show them up or threaten their job. It may be necessary for HR to work with hiring managers to avoid this kind of selfish company-damaging behavior.
17. Empowerment makes a difference – It turns out that by simply giving overqualified new hires some freedom, you eliminate almost all of the perceived negatives related to hiring the overqualified. This is because if you empower new hires who have excess qualifications, they will generally find a way to apply those qualifications in your organization.
18. Flexibility in the job can eliminate any concerns – Most over-qualification issues can be resolved quickly if the organization and the hiring manager is willing to shape the job. By simply changing or adding responsibilities to match the overqualified candidate’s skill set, they will have more business impact while at the same time reducing any potential frustrations from working beneath their experience/skill level.
19. A development plan can eliminate most concerns – Managers can often mitigate any issues related to the overqualified candidate if they provide the new hire with a development plan. Letting them know that there is a plan with deadlines to develop them can help alleviate any of their fears and anxiety. This development plan might include stretch goals or part-time rotations and projects that will quickly expose the individual to the rest of the organization. This exposure and their performance could make it more likely that the overqualified individual could move quickly internally to another job that more closely fits their qualifications.
20. You may not need to be concerned about referrals – If the overqualified candidate has been referred by a top employee, your concern should be lowered. This is because you can trust that your top employees will have already assessed them on their fit and their willingness to work at a level below their qualifications.
It seems silly and inconsistent to me that hiring managers who are continually complaining about the high volume of unqualified candidates are willing to further weaken their candidate pool by rejecting individuals with too many qualifications.
Rejecting someone because they have too much of what you desperately need seems at best illogical. However, I’m not surprised at this illogical behavior because I have found during my 35 plus years in recruiting that most hiring managers and some recruiters make decisions based on gut feelings and completely unproven assumptions and stereotypes.
If talent acquisition leaders want to prove or disprove the value of hiring the overqualified, calculate the statistical correlation between excess qualifications and weak performance and high turnover. Or alternatively, simply occasionally hire a few overqualified candidates and directly track whether they perform above or below what is average for new hires.
Questioning this rejection factor has become even more relevant recently because research at firms like Google have demonstrated that other widely-relied-on recruiting factors like grades, test scores, brainteasers, and unstructured interviews simply have little predictive value when it comes to identifying great hires.
During a time where the “under qualification” of applicants is a huge problem, it makes no economic sense to reject those whose only fault is having “too many” qualifications!