Embracing “overqualified” candidates

Embracing overqualified candidates

Embracing overqualified candidates: Unlock the hidden potential in your team.

Today, I want to address a topic that often sparks debate among employers: overqualified candidates. It’s a phrase we frequently encounter during our team meetings, where we discuss potential candidates for your job vacancies. I often hear comments like, ‘I sent this person over for the role, they are a superb candidate but were rejected because they are overqualified.’

This got me thinking: ‘How can a candidate be overqualified?’

Why am I getting overqualified applicants?

In a candidate-driven market, that has persisted for quite some time now, job hunters have an abundance of opportunities to choose from. Recently, I came across a newsletter from ALP (Association of Labour Providers) authored by Gillian Haythornthwaite. It surprised me to learn that there is an average of two job vacancies for every unemployed person. Candidates have the upper hand in the current market. Good candidates have interviews for more than just your job vacancy. This statistic begs the question: Are employers missing an opportunity by dismissing overqualified applicants out of hand?

When it comes to considering overqualified candidates, there are two sides to the coin. You’ve probably come across this yourself – CVs showcasing an impressive array of qualifications and experiences that far exceed the requirements for the role you’re hiring for. Naturally, this raises questions. Will the candidate only stay for a short time? How motivated will they be? How will they feel being managed by staff with less experience? Will their salary and promotion expectations be too high?

It’s understandable that these concerns arise, but instead of immediately dismissing overqualified candidates, think about how you could benefit from their skills and experience.

How can I find out if they’re the right fit for my vacancy?

At Octopus Personnel, we frequently encounter candidates who apply for positions they are clearly “overqualified” for. During our registrations and catch-ups, I use my time with them to really find out what their motivations are. Here are some of the questions I’ve used to find out more, and you can use them too!

‘What has caught your eye about this role, when there are more senior roles out there that you could apply for?’

The answers I receive are often surprising and sometimes quite poignant. Life can take unexpected turns, and there are instances when people yearn to be part of a team that values them, to wake up in the morning and genuinely enjoy going to work. Their motivation isn’t solely driven by financial gain but rather by the desire to feel like they can make a difference, feel valued, and come home without a huge weight on their shoulders.

‘How would you feel about being managed by someone with less experience than you?’

By and large, the response is positive, and when it’s not, we’ll know whether they’re going to be a good fit for your team. It’s crucial to remember that in a candidate-driven market, individuals apply for roles because they genuinely want them, not because they couldn’t secure a higher-level position elsewhere.

‘Do you see this role as a stopgap?’

At the moment, people have a lot of options open to them. They don’t need to settle for less, so it’s more than likely your vacancy is really what they’re looking for long term. However, it’s worth noting that people do experience burnout and believe that a lower position is the solution. Should we dismiss a candidate based on a preconceived idea? There may be more to their story than meets the eye.

‘What are your long-term plans?’

Don’t be afraid of responses like: ‘I want to go to work, do a good job, and go home without the baggage and worry’. The days of staying in one job your entire career have long gone. Workers now switch jobs several times. The likelihood is, you’ll have to recruit again no matter how over or under qualified your new employee is. Why not get some extra skills within your team in the meantime?

Food for thought.

So, here’s some food for thought: If we send over a candidate who initially seems “way too qualified” for your requirements, I urge you to read the profile we have attached to their CV. We might even send you a video on why we think they’d be perfect! It will shed light on why we believe the candidate is an excellent match for your team and why you should, at the very least, meet with them. We’ve already asked the hard questions for you!

Consider the advantages: they can hit the ground running, require less training, and bring valuable skills and experiences to your team. Remember, statistically candidates have at least two jobs to choose from, and they’re interested in yours!

Embracing overqualified candidates may just be the key to unlocking hidden potential within your team. Don’t let preconceived notions or concerns hold you back from discovering exceptional talent. Give them a chance to prove themselves, and you might be overjoyed by the positive impact they can make.

Stay open-minded, stay curious, and never underestimate the potential of a candidate, even if they appear to be “overqualified.”

Not used a recruitment agency before? Read our blog to find out why you should use a recruitment agency to save time, money, and a whole lot of stress!


Sandra Smart

About the author

I believe that recruitment is at the heart of a growing economy and that a different type of recruitment service, with honesty, efficiency and integrity at its heart, can benefit all. Octopus Personnel is the result of hard work, focus and commitment to that vision – to delivering consistently great results for our candidates and clients alike, as well as ensuring the agency is a vibrant, inclusive, inspirational place to work and develop rewarding careers.