Why it’s a mistake to overlook overqualified candidates

Overqualified candidates

Conventional hiring wisdom says overqualified candidates are bad news – they’re not engaged, won’t stay long, and want to be paid more.

But by avoiding overqualified candidates, you eliminate a pool of potential employees that could be very good for business. Here’s when and why you should think twice about hiring overqualified candidates.

Their qualifications don’t tell the whole story (you won’t know what really motivates them until you meet them)

Before passing on an overqualified candidate, ask during the screening or interview process: What is the candidate’s motivation for applying for this role?

Eliminating candidates that are overqualified based on their resume could mean missing out on a highly-motivated employee who might be a good fit.

“Employers need to consider a wider range of candidates, including people who might be overqualified or come from a different background,” said Lee Weisser, Senior Coach at Careers by Design.

For example, a candidate with management experience may seem overqualified for a non-management role, but excel at and prefer task-oriented work over people management. An overqualified candidate may also be motivated by working in a different field or an office with a work environment that aligns with their values.

“Candidates who are looking for a new job with a purpose can be a really good choice and a positive influence on the rest of your team,” said Weisser.

They are more likely to think outside the box (because they’re more likely to get bored)

Employers often worry an overqualified candidate may be easily bored, but for a motivated employee, boredom could lead to innovative thinking.

One study found overqualified workers use “task crafting,” meaning that once they’ve mastered a job, they will try new, more efficient and cost-effective ways to get the job done.

Overqualified candidates are also more likely to have the skills or experience to support or back up other roles within a business, and have the ability to look ahead and plan within their role.

You don’t have to worry about retention (provided you’re proactive)

One of the most common concerns about hiring overqualified candidates is retention, but research shows employers can take action to make overqualified candidates more likely to stick around.

A study looking at the connection between overqualification, job satisfaction, and turnover found that empowerment on the job helped to lessen concerns employers have about overqualified staff.

Empowerment means giving employees responsibility or autonomy in their role. This could mean, for example, giving an employee the tools or training to resolve a customer issue or request on the spot, without needing to consult with a manager or team lead.

The takeaway? Don’t judge an employee by their resume alone.

The best teams are often made up of people from a variety of backgrounds, skills sets and experience. By being open to candidates who might seem overqualified on paper, employers can tap into a pool of self-aware and motivated employees eager to find a new challenge.


See also:

5 things to consider before hiring a former employee

8 ways to spot a star performer

6 hiring lessons from Google that every small business needs to know


– Follow Workopolis_Hire on Twitter
– Sign up for Hire Education, Workopolis’ monthly newsletter
– Listen to 
Safe for Work, the Workopolis podcast
Post a job on Workopolis now


Previous Post How to throw a work party without getting sued


Next Post 4 things you need to do to accommodate disabilities in the workplace

Scroll back to top