Perspective / Overqualified

Thoughts on something I read about overqualified candidates #overqualified

I had no intention to write this article, but a recruiter shared a story about how overqualified people are flight risks, and I thought it needed another perspective.

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…nothing to do with the article, just cute animal art

I recently read an article by a recruiter that talked about the challenges of hiring “overqualified” workers for jobs below their previous role/title. They cited the concern that someone coming from a strategic role may no longer have some of their more tactical skills that they had prior to being in an executive role. Additionally, there was a concern about being unfulfilled and a risk of jumping ship as soon as something better comes along. I tried to reply directly to that article, but LinkedIn limits the number of characters, and I can be wordy, so I’m responding this way.

Let me start by saying I definitely appreciate hearing a recruiters point of view, it provides perspective and insight, which can be helpful to a job candidate. However, I will share that many of the best employees I’ve hired over the years have been “overqualified”, which let’s face it is just another way of saying older. Often times I hired them because their roles were eliminated and they desperately wanted (or needed) to work – personally, I like someone who desperately wants to work. The pay became less important to these candidates than the work. Most of them had to work hard to obtain the elevated roles that made them overqualified, and I’ve found they typically haven’t forgotten how to be “tactical” or how to work hard. Honestly most roles (even VP ones) require a tactical component in today’s workforce. Some even find the step back appealing and even invigorating.

As I stated above, the overqualified moniker seems to be associated with age, and I believe any concern companies have of losing an “overqualified” person to the first higher paying or higher titled job that comes along is a fallacy. The sad reality is since no one wants to hire older workers there will be few options for them to “jump” to (companies can say this isn’t true, but it’s true).

There may be data that contradicts this, but I’ve found younger workers to be just as likely to leave as an “experienced” worker… they are typically much more mobile and are willing to leave for a higher paying or more challenging role where they can grow and advance vs someone who already made all their moves and now just wants to contribute in a meaningful way. I’ve seen countless posts and stories about how it is now normal for people to leave roles after only a few years…either because they choose to leave, or the company makes that decision for them, so I’m not sure the flight risk argument is as big a part of the equation as it may have been years ago…and I would like to see companies evolve their thinking on this. 

I said in a piece I wrote about a year ago, and I still believe today… if an applicant is applying, and they seem to be “overqualified”, maybe you should consider yourself lucky to have found that candidate… you can ask them why they are interested in a role that on the surface seems below their skill or experience level – they may have a good reason. Imagine how much you won’t have to invest in training them.