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10 Tips for Navigating Candidates Who Are Overqualified

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We’ve all seen it: the candidate who applies for a position with a resume twice as impressive as it needs to be for a job.

Navigating candidates who are overqualified can be awkward and uncomfortable. That’s why we’ve reached out to some experienced recruiters who have experience with these situations to give you some tips for navigating candidates who are overqualified.

Don’t Immediately Turn Them Away

It can be a bit of a surprise to see an overqualified candidate make their way across your desk among a pool of appropriately qualified applicants. While some employers hiring applicants may be tempted to immediately turn them away because they don’t fit the mold that they’re looking to fill, one of our experts recommended doing the opposite.

“Try hanging onto an overqualified applicant’s resumes,” says Cody Candee, Founder and CEO of Bounce Luggage Storage. “Just because you don’t think they’re going to work out for this position doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want them in the future. Letting them know that you don’t have something for them at the moment but you’d love to have them on your team in a more senior position someday can be a great esteem boost and leave them with a positive association with your company.”

Look For Skill Gaps

While the person may be overqualified in education or experience in the field, look for what skill gaps they have that you could help them fill. There are often ways to use an overqualified individual in your workplace that will be beneficial to them while providing you with a very solid employee in the meantime.

“Sometimes people apply for jobs they’re overqualified for to gain skills in new areas so they’ll qualify for a dream job down the road,” says Asker A Ahmed, Director of iProcess Global Research. “There’s also a chance they’re looking for opportunities such as networking or other professional development that your brand could offer them. This person may turn out to be an extremely beneficial staff member who feel they’re winning while you get a stellar employee.”

Consider Future Possibilities

Don’t limit yourself to picturing them in the role they’re applying for. Do you see an expansion or growth of your business in the next few years? It can be helpful to have people to move into supervisory positions internally rather than hiring new people for the job. Think in terms of two, five, or even ten years down the road. Can you see this person progressing through the ranks as your brand grows?

“If your team is lacking clear leadership or you see the opportunity for promoting this person in the future, this could be a great opportunity,” says Lindsay Malu Kido, CEO of Empower Pleasure. “There are a lot of reasons people apply for jobs they’re overqualified for but it’s not uncommon to get applicants who are just looking to get their foot in the door so they can earn those higher up positions later.”

Ask Why They Want the Job

This seems very up front, but there may be a reason they’re exploring jobs that they’re overqualified for. There are a number of reasons someone might apply for a job that doesn’t make sense or seems like a step backward, so having this conversation can be eye opening.

“Many people can say they’ve had candidates who were overqualified but not looking for a job with more responsibility because they wanted to maintain a better work-home balance. Alternatively, they could’ve been pursuing continuing education and couldn’t handle a high-stress job at the moment,” says Ryan Rottman, Co-Founder and CEO of OSDB Sports. “Having staff that is self-aware of their limitations when it comes to commitment and performance can be a massive benefit and they can end up being one of your best assets as a leader on your team.”

Be Honest With The Candidate

One of the things that make employers nervous about hiring overqualified candidates is the fact that they’re afraid this person will get bored or be presented with a better opportunity and move on. This is problematic for the employer because training a new staff member is something that costs time and money so you don’t want to be doing it over and over again.

“Let them know that you think they might be overqualified,” says Marcus Hutsen, Business Development Manager of Patriot Coolers. “Sometimes, people are desperate and applying to every job they can find, but you’ll need to make it clear this isn’t a temporary position and you’re looking for someone who will stick around. It also might help to be more up front with their compensation such as pay and benefits if it’s not something that can be negotiated. This will save both of you time and frustration if it’s not what they thought it was.”

Explore Position Responsibility Adjustment

If you have an overqualified candidate, look at what the position is supposed to fulfill and then explore what it could do if you put someone in that role with more qualifications. Sometimes, it can help to have someone who could go above and beyond by covering some other areas as well.

“Take inventory of your current staff and areas that are causing stress,” says Cesar Cruz, Co-Founder of Sebastian Cruz Couture. “If there are some gaps that this candidate could fill in addition to the role you were initially hiring for, you may be able to create a new position that would work better for everyone. However, if you go this route, you’ll need to be ready to compensate them appropriately.”

Talk With Your Team

Ask your team what they think about this candidate. Sometimes, your team might have more insight into how this individual’s skills could be utilized than you do. As mentioned in the previous section, modifying the job description while compensating the candidate with an appropriate salary can be a great compromise.

“Your team may have suggestions when it comes to bringing on an overqualified candidate,” says Sumeer Kaur, CEO of Lashkaraa. “Of course, you don’t want to step on any toes, but if your team needs a team lead to help keep everyone on task or someone to serve as a liaison between them and another department because of recent communication issues, they may have suggestions on how this person can fill that gap and take the responsibility that the current team doesn’t have time for.”

Explore Pay Options

If this person is bringing a lot more skills to the table than you’re asking and their qualifications make them a more valuable asset and increase the credibility of your brand, consider offering them a higher salary. If you’re able, this can be a great way to retain them as a staff member while improving your brand in many areas.

“Sometimes, these overqualified candidates are just what we need to make our companies look more legitimate,” says Ann McFerran, CEO of Glamnetic. “Having someone with a Doctorate compared to an Undergrad or Master’s Degree might not be essential, but when you’re able to include their credentials on your company website and they can share their insights about the brand, you’ll give validity to your products or services.”

Weigh Pros and Cons

As with every candidate you explore, we recommend weighing your pros and cons. Something a lot of employers forget to consider is that there may be a better candidate out there who just hasn’t seen the job posting yet.

“Many people are often impatient to fill a position, but if your only potential candidate is overqualified and you’re concerned abou their long-term satisfaction with the position, it might be better to wait,” says Lyudmyla Dobrynina, Head of Marketing North America at Optimeal. “Delaying hiring by a week or two is better than hiring the wrong person and wasting time and effort on training them and bringing them on board.”

Offer Recommendations Elsewhere

If you really like the candidate but simply don’t have a position for them at the moment, another option is to offer to help them out by referring them to someone else. This is an unconventional method, but it can help you maintain that positive reputation with that individual in case you have a position open in the future.

“We should all be looking to keep our brand’s image as tarnish-free for our applicants as possible, especially if this person is applying just to get their foot in the door because they really want to work for your brand,” says Sasha Ramani, Associate Director of Corporate Strategy at MPOWER Financing. “If you think this is someone you could hire later on, let them know you can reach out to them when a position opens up that better suits their qualifications. While you risk not getting them to come back, you’re at least leaving them with a positive experience with your brand and some encouragement for the future.”

Conclusion

While it can make the situation a little more complex, having an overqualified candidate doesn’t mean you can’t hire them or that they wouldn’t be satisfied with the job. Avoid jumping to conclusions and take these tips to heart for future situations where you have an overqualified candidate applying for a position within your company. Happy hiring!

Overqualified candidate? pros and cons of hiring them – indeed. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.indeed.com/hire/c/info/overqualified-candidate

Should you hire an overqualified candidate? Harvard Business Review. (2016, November 2). Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2011/03/should-you-hire-an-overqualifi