Overqualified Candidates are Truly Rare …

… and rarer still are instances when you should pass on these candidates. A recent post over on the HBR blogs that asked if you should hire an overqualified candidate made some great points about the assumptions made by Hiring Managers when presented with “overqualified candidates”, and hinted at a few others.

Most Hiring Managers misunderstand what overqualified is
A candidate is only over-qualified if they exceed the skill requirements of the job. This means that the following candidates are not overqualified:

  • candidates with an advanced degree that exceeds stated educational requirements
    because the education might not be that relevant anyway
  • candidates with considerably more years of professional experienced than expected
    because if most of a candidate’s experience is in a different role (because they just changed career paths a few years ago), the experience with respect to specific skill requirements could still be minimal
  • candidates with a lot of experience in similar roles in the function
    because candidates with 20 years in tactical order placement and processing would not have a lot of experience in strategic negotiation, a major requirement for sourcing professionals today

Today’s job definition will not be tomorrow’s job definition.
Business is evolving as rapidly as the technology that drives it evolves, and this means that the requirements for a role are no longer static. If the job responsibilities are evolving rapidly, you will need a candidate with more education, skills, and experience than the job requires today to keep up.

There’s nothing stopping you from paying a candidate what he or she is worth.
Maybe you planned to pay 60K, but if you get a candidate who is so perfect for the role that he or she will be twice as productive, and you can get that candidate for 90K, you’re getting someone who can do the work of two people for only 75% of what it would cost you to hire two lesser skilled candidates.

Just because a candidate is overqualified doesn’t mean that he or she will be bored or move on quickly.
This particular misconception drives me nuts. Some jobs are always challenging. Like sales. You never know what the customer is going to want. Or development. Technology is always changing and you never know what new technology is going to pop up that you will have to integrate with or what new bug will appear in the next release that you will have to track down.

Not every candidate wants your job.
Not everyone wants to be the boss … and, in fact, a candidate who has been the boss and decides that she would rather spend her days getting work done instead of fighting fires, going to a never ending stream of management meetings, and micro-managing lesser qualified employees who can’t keep on track without constant guidance is less likely to try and take you job than an overly ambitious over-achieving up-and-comer. If you create the right position for the individual with the most impressive non-boss title you can give them, pay them well, and free them to do what they want to do, they will likely be more than happy to leave you to you own personal boss-hell while they build systems that work, successfully source strategic categories, and design and implement new processes for efficient operations.

Bottom line, there are very few overqualified candidates and fewer still who would not make a good hire if you pay them well and give them the opportunity to shine (because most people would rather complete a task and have a sense of accomplishment than “be the boss”). So if you get a very qualified candidate, the first thing you should do is get her in for an interview before the competition does — because she is the type of candidate you want.