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Why You Should Hire the Over-Qualified

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You don’t usually expect a man dying of thirst to object to a cup of water being too large or cold. Generally, when someone with a strong need encounters the solution to that need, you expect them to grab onto the opportunity with both hands and count their lucky stars that the problem is finally solved. That’s what you’d expect, anyways. According to the Amtec blog, the skill gap is having a significant impact on the ability of employers to make timely hires, especially for hires in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. In fact, it’s so tough to fill specialty positions that 40% of companies report that certain jobs are remaining open for six months or longer. With all of the discourse taking place in the hiring world on ways to address the skill gap, you’d think that employers are more thirsty for talent than ever before.

The funny thing is, rejecting a candidate because they’re over-qualified for a position is still a common practice, even for these companies that are supposedly so starved for talent. The conventional wisdom behind this practice is that an overqualified hire will ultimately become dissatisfied with their job for a whole bunch of reasons. According to articles like this one, businesses don’t want to hire overqualified candidates because they will ultimately come to be frustrated with the job, what the job pays and the company in general. Many companies believe that, though these overqualified candidates say that they’re willing to do work that’s beneath them, they’ll quickly leave the company when they find out that the only work available to them is basic in nature.

And they’re right. This, however, is only because they prove themselves to be right by mismanaging over-qualified applicants or failing to communicate advancement opportunities from the start. For instance, if you hired someone with an advanced degree in cyber security to collect sales data from your employees and put it into a spread sheet, day in, day out, with no end in sight, then of course that person is going to hate their job! When you hire someone with skills that go above and beyond the tasks that you have them working on, then why limit their responsibilities to rudimentary tasks? From the very start, you should be letting the skilled candidate know what their future could look like at your company. Just make sure that you don’t end up promising them something that you can’t deliver on. Before you begin managing an employee’s future, you need to be sure about the future needs of your company.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you planning on expanding their responsibilities or offering them a promotion in the future?
  • Is this an absolutely dead end job, with no chance for advancement?
  • Is there a higher position that this candidate work toward or do you only need them to do entry-level work?
  • Do the candidate’s skills have possible applications for your business, or not?

These questions should help to guide your planning for an over-qualified hire, whether you can build a more substantial position for them in the future or not. Maybe it turns out that you just can’t afford to pay this person at the level that they’ve been paid in the past, not now and not anytime soon. Whatever conclusion your resources and employee plan lead you to, it’s important to relay this information to the hire. Even if the news isn’t great, that all you need the new hire to do are the tasks listed in the job description, telling them the truth will always be to your advantage. By practicing managerial transparency, you gain the trust of your employees. This increases the likelihood that the hire will be honest in return, allowing you to learn if the path you intend for them is interesting or if they’re likely to leave before too long.

While it’s certainly possible for an over-qualified hire to become bored of their work, you’ve got to keep in mind that they’re applying to your job for a reason: they want it. According to an article from Dr. John Sullivan, an over-qualified hire’s desire for the job can easily outweigh the displeasure of working below their abilities. Dr Sullivan wrote, “Because so many highly qualified individuals have been let go from organizations in recent years, their desire to work will likely overpower any feeling of entitlement or resistance to taking a lower-level job. A combination of a candidate’s inability to move and limited local job opportunities may make them more than willing to happily work below their experience level.”

The conventional hiring wisdom which has branded over-qualified hires as risky or as a demographic to be avoided all together, fails to account for the value that a properly integrated, highly-skilled hire can bring to their employer. By analyzing the applications of a new hire’s skill set, you can start to utilize their talent and/or groom them for a position more befitting their qualifications in the future.

So, instead of lumping over-qualified candidates with under-qualified candidates (unfit for the job), see hiring a highly skilled employee for what it really is: an opportunity to get some more bang for your buck!

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