What To Think About When Considering ‘Overqualified’ Candidates

Linda ReyesForbes Coaches Counsel

When hiring, you’re looking for the best person to fill the open position at your company. But what happens when you come across an “overqualified” candidate?

There is a tendency to shy away from overqualified candidates, but too much experience or education aren’t good reasons to disqualify a candidate from your search. We asked experts from the Forbes Coaches Council what they would do if they came across an overqualified candidate. Some of their answers may surprise you.

1. Examine Your Biases

When you think a candidate is overqualified, start by examining your own feelings about why the candidate is overqualified and what you fear from hiring an overqualified candidate. There are age-old biases, like an overqualified candidate will quit when a better job comes along. In an age when people stay in jobs one, two or three years, does that really matter? Then, talk with the candidate to address your concerns. You may find there is nothing to worry about. –Larry Boyer, Success Rockets LLC

2. Define ‘Overqualified’

Hiring leaders miss great talent that comes in different forms. Let’s start with the age issue. Many overqualified candidates are older, and the assumption is that they’ll want more money. But so many older, qualified and overqualified candidates want the mission, not just the money. So, don’t miss out on older, wiser and more than qualified talent because of this thought process. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.

3. Think About Culture Fit

Usually overqualified only means the candidate has more years of experience than needed. However, to be qualified, the candidate needs to work well with other team members and have the desire to be there. If you perceive a candidate to be a great fit within the culture, and they have a plan to be there long-term, having more years of experience than necessary is not an issue. – Donald Hatter, Donald Hatter Inc.

4. Leverage Their Strengths

Overqualified candidates surface because of weak local economic market conditions (i.e., recession) or because the individual is the midst of a career change/reentry into the workforce or is seeking more income. Be willing to customize the role to keep them engaged. They can help accelerate activities, transform processes and become another leader in your organization. Look for other ways to allow them to grow. – Christie Lindor, The MECE Muse

5. Place A Premium On Urgency

An overqualified employee can be a great benefit for small businesses. Companies should place a high premium on a sense of urgency to receive as much wisdom as possible from the candidate in a short period of time. Most overqualified people only stay for a short time. However, that amount of time might just be enough to help the company to develop a new process or achieve a needed breakthrough. – Ken Gosnell, CEO Experience

6. Define A Unique Progression Plan

If you hire top talent for a specific role, give them room to thrive. Consider identifying areas where the individual can lead in team initiatives immediately. Give this A-player the opportunity to shine through tactical stretch goals and make them a wildcard candidate for future promotions within the organization. Create a development plan for the team member to successfully navigate in their first year, and reward them through key milestone achievements. – Rachel Lourdes Mestre, Marketing Muses

7. Look For The Right Fit

Finding an overqualified candidate can seem like a boon at first, but hiring someone overqualified can be just as bad as hiring an under-qualified candidate. An overqualified candidate can become easily bored and frustrated and, eventually, become an emotional drain on your team. Try not to compromise on fit. With the right fit, your team will have a better chance of connecting and growing. – Cheryl Amyx, 4CEO, Inc.

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