The economy’s slow growth, along with the nation’s unemployment rate, is showing some small glimpses of improvement. What this means is that managers are starting to gear up for hiring again. But with the unemployment rate recently soaring to record levels, more than likely you’ll see your share of overqualified candidates walk through your door. You know the type: candidates that are considered too educated or too experienced beyond what is required for the position. Today, there may be a greater availability of top talent than we’ve seen in years, which can be a great thing for small and large companies alike.

This leads to a new dilemma: How to handle the overqualified job applicant?

Perceived Risks of Hiring the Overqualified

It’s true that in years past, being an overqualified candidate meant human resources professional and hiring managers might raise their eyebrows when reviewing a resume. In fact, back in the day, being overqualified meant the applicant was screened out. Why? Because there was the worry that this candidate may be settling for less because of a potential personality flaw, or that this was someone just looking for a job, any job, and would not stick around for the long-term.

The fear concerning an overqualified candidate is that he or she would soon become dissatisfied and petition for a promotion or more money. Or worse, the candidate may be just using the position as a stepping stone and leave the company shortly after being hired. The overqualified worker may become bored quickly and lack the motivation to perform to his or her potential. Another concern is that if an overqualified worker comes on board, he may be difficult to train because he may want to perform tasks in his own way. In other cases, the hiring manager may be reluctant to hire an overqualified applicant because of feeling threatened.

But those days are long past. The recent recession has flooded the market with top talent, that now it’s become par for the course to come across candidates with higher degrees and experience levels.

“There was a whole set of reluctances that could be justified or warranted [back then], but in the current market, it’s standard practice for overqualified people to apply”, says Joanne Murray, Monster Management Advisor. (Source:

Tips for Hiring the Overqualified

If you choose to ignore the outdated myths and fears associated with an overqualified candidate, what are the best practices for hiring one? Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t confuse experience and academic education with skills.
  • Pay top talent what they’re worth.
  • Keep the department and organization’s goals clearly in mind.
  • Take the time to hire the right person, whether considered overqualified or not.
  • Learn why the overqualified candidate wants the job.

The Bottom Line

Good human resources and hiring managers hire the best workers they can afford. These managers aren’t afraid that a job candidate is older, smarter, more educated, or more experienced than they are. Overqualified workers can yield outstanding results for your company, so don’t disqualify them for old-school reasons that don’t apply today.  When someone walks through your door with impressive credential and experience, don’t pass them up so quickly.

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