Let's Drop the Overqualified Objection

Six points of defense on behalf of "overqualified" applicants.

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Michael Wade

One of the most frustrating things a job seeker can encounter is the objection that he or she is overqualified.

“What am I supposed to do?” they ask. “Hide the fact that I have ten years of experience, or that I have a graduate degree?”

Put me down on the side of the applicants.

Some employers may argue that the overqualified applicant will get bored with the less demanding or lower-paid work and soon move on. Who can deny that happens? On the other side, however, are some points that deserve more attention:

1. There may not be that big of a difference between the turnover rates of the overqualified employees (especially in this job market) and the less qualified ones. It can be better to have an experienced performer for four years than a so-so one for five.

2. The employer will have to spend less time training the seasoned employee. That’s a savings right there.

3. The more experienced/better trained employee will be producing at a high level much sooner than the less qualified counterpart and can bring some valuable insights gained from hands-on performance.

4. The overqualified employee may want to stay in a position that provides less stress and more time for the family. Not every person who was a manager or supervisor loved the experience. Many want a position that is less likely to dominate their weekends and home life.

5. There is the danger that a failure to select the overqualified applicant will be perceived as age discrimination. This depends, of course, upon the individual case, but the overqualified objection may be a cloak to hide illegal bias.

6. Having experience elsewhere does not automatically produce a reluctance to accept how things operate here. It may even carry a greater knowledge of an employer’s expectations.

In tight economic times, organizations are going to be seeing more applicants who far exceed the basic job requirements. It makes no sense for hiring departments to place a stigma on the overqualified. Doing so excludes a pool of extraordinary talent.

Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.