Monday, October 11, 2010

The Overqualified Candidate

The business climate today is something that has many of us a little worried. It is easy to just sit back and watch as events unfold, worried to make certain moves, concerned that making just the wrong decision will backfire and move you from the precipice right over the edge into the unemployment line with so many of your peers. Well, don’t take the easy way out just because things are tough. This economy, like so many other things, will not continue on into perpetuity. Yes, it will end. Now is the time to do things that will position your organization for success in the future. Taking things too safely will endanger future success.

The tight labor market is a perfect example of opportunity knocking on your door. You can benefit from this and hire better people so you will come out ahead when the recovery starts. HR might try to deprive you of these candidates since they are “overqualified”. Your own doubts about your own skills might stand as a barrier between you and these better people. Using these highly talented people will place you in a far better position in the future. Think of “overqualified” as just a new moniker for the best choice.

Many of the current displaced workers are more willing to put forth efforts you’ll not find under any other circumstances. People with great backgrounds and exceptional skills are willing to put that talent to work in places they would never have considered only a few years ago. The benefits these individuals can bring to the table are significant.

An “overqualified” candidate is simply someone whose resume is more extensive and more impressive than the hiring manager expected. That’s it. Since the Human Resourced department doesn’t know how much additional qualification is acceptable, the “overqualified” candidate is filtered out before the hiring manager even has a chance to see his resume or the candidate is given the opportunity to show he is the best for the position. This leaves the manager wasting resources training and developing less qualified personnel when another could have jumped into the position ready to work nearly from the start.

Some reasons for not hiring the “overqualified” candidate are valid, while others are not. They are too expensive, hard to train, skills are not up-to-date, they may suffer boredom, or leave when things improve.

Probably one of the more common reasons for not hiring an “overqualified” candidate is the cost involved. With more experience comes the higher demand for compensation. Sometimes, this is true. Most of the time, however, it is not. When posting the position, including a salary range provides enough screening to weed out most candidates who expect to be paid more. Certainly, the more experienced worker will probably seek a higher salary but might be willing to work for the lower pay knowing that it may be the best you can do. They will do it and do it well.

A manager may worry that those whose experience exceeds the minimum might come to a job with some very ingrained responses and unwilling to change. This should be cleared up in the interview. If the candidate expresses they are not willing to change, dump them and move on to the next guy. Do not use the resume as a screening device based on this criterion, though.

The manager should ascertain how recent the candidate’s skills are in the interview. An overqualified candidate’s skills are probably broader than the less experienced worker. He is probably significantly more advanced technologically and interpersonally. Taking advantage of this, the manager will have an easier time training this candidate and be able to rely on his ability to multi-task and work across functional roles.

Worry about boredom is hardly a proper screening technique. Covering this possibility in the interview and seeking the candidate’s response to what their tendencies are in such situations might provide insight into how much more the candidate can help the organization. Boredom can spawn improvement if it is the right candidate.

An overqualified candidate might leave when things improve but that is not any different than any other candidate. After the new hire begins working, retention becomes part of a good manager’s skill set. A good manager helps their personnel feel appreciated and motivated so they will remain with the company.

The overqualified candidate might just be your best option. Reviewing the candidate’s experience and skills, seeking answers to your concerns in the interview process, and weighing that against potential gains for the company will lead the manager toward making the best decision for the long-term benefit for the organization while quite possibly saving significant costs short term.

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