Most Human Resources professionals naturally assume that hiring somebody who is overqualified for a job is a bad idea. That’s because they believe that the minute a better opportunity comes along or the job market improves, that employee is more likely to be out the door, leaving you will be left right back where you started – less the costs of hiring and training a new worker.
But this may be over thinking the situation, according to one nationally-recognized hiring expert.
Dr. John Sullivan, an HR author and consultant based in California, says that hiring “overqualified candidates”, or OCs, is actually a great idea because it means your business will get more for its money. And that’s not all.
“There is also no credible public or corporate evidence that overqualified candidates get bored, are less motivated, are absent more, or have any unique team or performance problems,” according to Sullivan. Actually, the opposite is true, he says.
According to a recent study conducted at Portland State University, candidates who are overqualified for the jobs they are hired to perform typically receive higher performance appraisal reviews and perform their job duties better than their less qualified counterparts.
And if companies are savvy enough to recognize and reward employees who are contributing more to overall company performance, these overqualified candidates will have higher job satisfaction, higher incentive to remain with the company, and less voluntary turnover.
Top Benefits of Choosing OCs
According to Sullivan, HR departments should be actively seeking out overqualified candidates rather than simply workers who meet the minimal job requirements. And here’s why:
• Bench Strength – If your company is planning to grow bigger, you eventually are going to need to have ready-to-go leaders who can take you there. “Smart firms like Google hire individuals for ‘this and the next job’ based on the premise that most employees will eventually move internally or get promoted,” says Sullivan. “And by hiring the overqualified, you make sure that some new hires will already have most of the qualifications and skills that they will need for their next job.”
• Creating a Culture of Success – Intangibles such as desire for growth, searching for excellence, and ambition are contagious. Hiring experienced workers who have already worked their way through and over the learning curve can help motivate junior workers to emulate their success.
• Leave Early? So What? – Even if OCs doleave your company after staying only a relatively short time, they can still add tremendous value while they are there. Veteran employees can help expand the horizons of your other workers, enabling them to approach old problems in new, innovative ways and empowering them to think outside the box.
• Require Less Hand-Holding – New employees who have worked in the field for a long time often require less supervision and hands-on management. They can often give you better results with less drama. “If their over-qualification includes leadership experience and skills, they may be able to help out the manager,” Sullivan notes.
• Better Work Ethic – Experienced, mature employees understand the value of doing a good job, being a productive team member, and pursuing excellence, especially if they have failed in the past. “Because so many highly qualified individuals have been let go from other organizations in recent years, their desire to work will likely overpower any feeling of entitlement or resistance to taking a lower-level job,” says Sullivan. “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.”
If you limit yourself to less qualified candidates – even for an entry-level job – you could potentially be passing up highly-skilled and motivated employees who could contribute greatly to the success of your company. Why squander the opportunities that a soft job market is presenting to you? Make the large number of overqualified candidates competing for few jobs work for you, not against you.
Avoiding the Problems of Hiring OCs
Hiring OCs is not risk-free. But you can minimize your chances of falling into one of these pitfalls by taking a few simple steps:
• Create Opportunities, Not Limitations – When you bring an overqualified candidate on board your organization, make sure that they understand that you are committed to their ongoing growth and success. Draw up a development plan that can help them achieve the next level quickly and that fully exploits their previous experience and accomplishments.
• Throw Out the Job Description – If you get the right person, it may be time to reconsider the parameters of the particular role they were hired to fill. Consider adding or changing the responsibilities on the “official” job description so that your new player can have a maximum positive impact on the success of your business. This not only will limit the frustrations they may feel working below their previous level, but will also illustrate how much you value their experience and plan to harness it to benefit the both of you.
• Get Their New Boss on the Same Page – Often, when an experienced candidate is brought in at a lower job level, their direct report supervisor may feel threatened. Reassure their new boss that you aren’t hiring their potential replacement so they should don’t have to sabotage their new employee’s success in order to keep their job.
The ups and downs of the economy and the current job market means there are ample opportunities to get more bang for your buck from OCs — as long as you know how to pave your path to success.