The Risk and Reward of Overqualified Candidates: Hiring During COVID-19

Overqualified candidates: This will become much more common, particularly with senior managers who are looking to move across industry sectors. Some of these candidates will be realising they are not likely to get roles anything like those they held previously, and some may even be angry, so care needs to be taken in dealing with these…

The Risk and Reward of Overqualified Candidates: Hiring During COVID-19

Overqualified candidates: This will become much more common, particularly with senior managers who are looking to move across industry sectors. Some of these candidates will be realising they are not likely to get roles anything like those they held previously, and some may even be angry, so care needs to be taken in dealing with these candidates.

Last week, we discussed the post-COVID-19 issue of unqualified responses and, specifically, the volumes of these that you can expect to be dealing with from now onwards. At the same time, you will also receive applications from a large number of “overqualified” candidates.

Whilst there is a risk anytime you hire a new employee, when it comes to overqualified candidates, the risk can arguably be even greater – but so can the reward.

If you employ an overqualified candidate, you run the risk of having an underpaid, bored employee who does not take direction, but you also have the opportunity to employ a confident, self-managed team member who requires little supervisor and is a great asset to the business. With this in mind, it’s important to weigh risks with the potential rewards when assessing whether to hire an overqualified candidate.

To help you determine the risk, here is a checklist to guide you. The questions below explore the various dangers of employing overqualified candidates to help you gain a clear understanding of what to look out for.

Dangers when employing overqualified candidates:

  • Do they have the necessary skills and experience? This is often overlooked with overqualified candidates because the assumption is, “Of course they can do the job.” Make sure they have the right skills – and that they are current.
  • Will they be challenged and engaged by the role, or will they be bored and demotivated after six weeks?
  • Will they fit into the team and not upset others? Keep in mind that they will be treated with a mixture of suspicion and curiosity by others in the team, and will need to be adept at “fitting in,” more so than other employees.
  • Will they be satisfied with the salary on offer, or are they just taking the job because they need work?
  • Will they take direction, or will they not recognise the authority of their team leader or manager and be difficult to manage?
  • Will their manager be able to manage them? Consider who their manager is and the skills they have, as some managers may be intimidated by a more qualified person.

So, if this is the risk, what is the reward (or opportunity)?  In order to balance the potential dangers, an overqualified candidate needs to bring some “extras.”

Opportunities when employing overqualified candidates:

  • Will they work independently, requiring less management time and direction, thereby freeing up their manager?
  • Will they take initiative, seeing and acting on business opportunities and bringing real value to the company?
  • Are they confident they can perform in the role? They should bring that confident energy with them, and this should “rub off” on those around them.
  • Will they hit the ground running, getting some immediate results with relatively little training and making a positive change quickly?
  • Will they bring new ideas, business contacts and even clients?
  • Will they be able to mentor and help other team members, and potentially even assist with the training and development of junior employees?

Deciding to employ overqualified candidates is a bit like a maths equation. There are two sides to the ledger, and it is necessary to understand both the risk and the reward to make the right decision.

There is, however, a “key” – the skills of the manager they will work with. If the manager is not confident and will likely be challenged or intimidated by an overqualified team member, then regardless of the skills, attitude and behaviour of the candidate, it is asking a lot of everyone.  However, if you have a strong manager who can “bring out the best” in their people, you can get great results for your business by including some overqualified candidates in your team!

As you navigate the challenging environment created by COVID-19, I hope this has given you a fresh perspective on hiring overqualified candidates – feel free to reach out to us., if you have any questions or need help finding the right talent for your team. And don’t forget the take a look at the first blog in this series

Pete Davis is Managing Director of Frontline Recruitment Group (FRG). FRG is a specialist recruitment company with 30 offices across Australia and New Zealand. They have been operating since the early 1990s and have worked in high unemployment environments with employers and job hunters in many different industries. This blog series is about sharing some of the lessons of the past and integrating them with the technology and business practices of today. We hope you enjoy these articles and welcome your opinions.