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How should I evaluate overqualified candidates?

How should I evaluate overqualified candidates?

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You've put together a great job description and made your company sound really attractive to candidates. The applications come flooding in, but there's a problem. All the CVs you get through seem to be from people with too much experience for the job.

Highly qualified and experienced people, like everyone else, are often on the look out for new jobs and reconsidering their career path. If they're out of work they still need to pay the bills and keep their CVs current, often contemplating positions with less responsibility and lower pay.

So the question is, should you employ someone seemingly overqualified for your advertised role? Is it smart thing to do or a fast lane to disaster?

Some of the standard objections to hiring an overqualified candidate can include:

  • Overqualified means overly expensive –
    This is the objection most often made. However, if your company has advertised the salary for a position, it’s safe to assume that anyone who applies for it is willing to accept the salary. Of course, someone with more experience may ask for a higher salary, justifying their request with the promise of an increased contribution. How you respond to that is up to you.
  • Overqualified mean over the skills hill – Clearly establish your core criteria for a position, including required skills and experience. If an overqualified candidate is successful against those criteria, he or she will probably be an excellent fit. Just because someone has held senior management roles, don’t penalise them for applying to a lower-management role. Look for evidence of synchronisation in the applicant’s skills and experience, not just their former job title. Of course, it’s always valid to ask: why would this person want the job? Look for answers in their letter and CV and explore further in interview. Consider too, an overqualified worker may actually have a broader skill set. New techniques, software programs and so on needed to do a specific job are easily taught. In fact, an overqualified candidate is almost certain to have a greater ability to multi-task and learn fast.
  • Overqualified means overbearing
    Many younger or more inexperienced managers feel threatened and believe, if they hire someone overqualified, he or she will prefer to do things their own way. This is certainly a valid question for the interview process. If the candidate’s answer is along the lines that they are happy to follow company procedures, but able to make suggestions based on their experience, you have the best of both worlds. Confident managers hire the best workers they can afford and overqualified workers, in general, are more motivated to work hard, improve your team's performance and make you look good. And, after all, it’s managing the skills of your team to help it perform at its best, which gets you promoted.
  • Overqualified means over and out
    Will an overqualified employee show you their heels the moment a better offer comes along? Quite possibly. But so will other workers. It’s your job, as a manager to make them feel appreciated and motivated to stay when times get better in the job market. Generation Y employees, in general, expect to change jobs 20 to 30 times in their career. Baby boomers and older Generation X may actually be the more stable, long-term choice.

There can be few moments more soul –destroying than when an overqualified candidate is told his or her two and a half decades of experience is now, in some mysterious way, a liability. So, try not to make the assumption that a candidates’ years of experience will prevent them from honestly rethinking their job profile, taking on a new challenge and, ultimately, being content and successful.

In short, under what circumstances could getting more for less be seen as a bad choice? Start snapping up some of the amazing overqualified talent that comes your way and make use of the experience they can bring to your business.

Sometimes more is, simply, more.