Why the “Mature and Overqualified” Is the Finalist You Really Want to Hire

Mar 1, 2009

In recent months, companies have slashed deep into their organizations, cutting high-performing, highly talented individuals with the stroke of a pen. What started as a gradual decrease of the non-performing workforce has now escalated to a firing frenzy as companies struggle to stabilize losses and preserve cash flow. The results of pushing the panic button can be seen in the national unemployment rate of 7.6% and job losses of over 1.2 million since 2008. By contrast, the unemployment rate in 2008 was 5.8%. Despite the grim news, there are companies that are still in need of talent and still hiring.

The number of posted online jobs is currently in excess of 3.3 million. This number is probably underestimated as this does not account for the jobs posted via other methods. The public sector (government agencies) and some private sectors (medical, engineering) are still struggling with the depletion of future talent.

Companies are entering a new job market with a whole new set of challenges. Under the present circumstances, companies can’t rely on the heavy bonuses, high salaries, or other perks that have been the catalysts to attracting top performers. And, let’s face it, the talent pools are filling up with the A players. Will our tendency be to toss that “overqualified” resume to the side? Is that the right thing to do?

In the past 10 years we have been bombarded by the “War for Talent” headlines. Each recruiting leader has at one point in the last decade lost sleep over how they will hire talent in the future and keep their talent pipelines filled with “A” players. Who would have guessed that the “War for Talent” would quickly fade and the talent pools would be filled overnight by some of the best and the brightest?

The surge of top talent entering the workforce is unprecedented. Companies who are positioning themselves for recovery and growth over the next 10 years are uniquely positioned to get a significant head start on future talent. Unfortunately, recruiters are becoming overwhelmed with resumes and job seekers, to fill only a few positions. Recruiters are being forced to reset expectations with their job seekers based on what the market will bear right now, which in the end, may very well result in hiring only the marginally fit if we are not careful. We have a unique opportunity that will most likely never present itself again.

High-performing, highly talented individuals are now available and are ripe for the picking. So before you discard them as being “over qualified,” consider this:

  1. These individuals are hustlers — they are self-motivated and confident. They can help re-energize morale and improve productivity.
  2. They outperformed their peer group because they have the skills and knowledge to manage through adversity. They are trained for this economy and should be used to help resolve its crisis.
  3. They are not, nor will they ever be, satisfied with being a sub-par performer. This is a unique opportunity to step up the level of expected performance within your company.
  4. They possess skills and creativity to help companies get through this tough time. Do you want your A or B player at the table?
  5. They will not become bored — they will find ways to help you re-invent your business. They can help sift through the inefficiencies in business processes and quickly correct them.
  6. They will be positioned to re-grow your company when the crisis has past and provide a competitive edge.
  7. They will not demand more than the market will bear — they will reap the benefits later.
  8. They are extremely well networked — an advantage that will be needed in the future.
  9. And finally, they deserve first consideration. While others were sitting around doing marginal work, this group was driving business forward.

Some leaders will argue that they can’t afford to hire them. As recruiting leaders, you need to challenge their thinking and ask them, “Can you afford not to?” When this crisis passes, and it will, this same group will be the most highly sought-after talent. Making an investment today to secure your talent pool for the future may be the wisest decision you will ever make.

Here are some tips:

  1. Develop a strategy to approach these job seekers and engage your management in the process.
  2. Encourage job seekers to remain true to their resume. Don’t encourage them to “dummy it down.”
  3. Look for job seekers who are multi-skilled and have proven track-records of versatility.
  4. Discuss things openly and honestly — allow them to determine a level of interest.
  5. Encourage all to apply and use selection processes to weed through the mounds of resumes.
  6. Don’t overstretch — but look one level up or down to enhance your talent pool.
  7. Reexamine your reward and recognition program. If money is not on the table, there are other creative ways to keep your employees engaged and motivated.
  8. Establish an innovation team. It is a great way to keep creativity alive and employees engaged.

So before you throw that resume aside, make sure you have considered all the alternatives. These same job seekers will still be here when the crisis subsides and you will want them on your team. If you invest now, you may very well see productivity increase, corporate knowledge increase, and recovery quicken.

(Gerry Crispin also contributed to this article.)

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