Five Tips on How to Approach 'Overqualified' Job Candidates

Don Tennant
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Top Nine Tips for Job Seekers Entering the Market

Tips on searching for your first or next IT job.

In my post on Friday, "The Frustration of the Overqualified' Job Candidate," I wrote about business consultant and author Maribeth Kuzmeski's advice that job candidates whose qualifications exceed those required for a particular position should not be excluded from consideration. I noted that Kuzmeski says it's the job candidate's responsibility to be proactive and to "take that argument off the table" by addressing the matter head-on.


That said, there's a lot the prospective employer can do, as well. Kuzmeski, whose most recent book is " And the Clients Went Wild! How Savvy Professionals Win All the Business They Want," offers five tips to help employers avoid missing opportunities to hire highly-qualified workers due to preconceived notions of those workers' expectations.

Be open and honest about your concern. If you have a concern about certain elements of the candidate's experience, ask about it. If you see that a candidate has an impressive list of achievements, acknowledge them. Don't chuck someone in your "no" pile simply because you might be a little intimidated by his achievements. Ask the candidate how he plans to use the skills that led him to his past achievements in the position you're offering, but don't focus too much on the past. Instead, find out about his current motivations and the goals he has for the position.


Connect with the candidate's why. Your worries about a highly-qualified candidate can be decreased when you connect with her why. Most candidates are not applying for jobs they seem more than qualified for because they are simply desperate for work-but many hiring managers never find this out because they discard these candidates' resumes rather than invite them to come for an interview. By connecting with the candidate's why, you can learn her motivations for wanting a position. Even if a person was downsized, maybe she was burned out on what she was doing and wants to jump-start a new career. Or she may want to give up a higher-level position in order to get back to something she enjoyed doing earlier in her career. You'll be able to tell when she is explaining her reasoning and her motivations whether or not she truly has a passion for the job in question or whether she is simply willing to take the first job that is offered to her.


Recognize that highly-qualified people require less training. If a job candidate has been around the block a few times, his adaptability to new situations and responsibilities will be better. That's good news, because you and your managers will spend less of your own valuable time training him. Plus, once you have him on board, it's likely that you'll find he is a great help to your other employees. Highly-qualified candidates bring with them more life experience to pull from when challenging situations arise with clients or other coworkers. You will probably also find that you have added peace of mind knowing that someone who is highly skilled and experienced is hard at work for you.


Hire based on attitude. This might be the best piece of advice to heed with any hiring decision. As long as a candidate has the basic skills and knowledge required to get the job done, don't spend time wringing your hands over whether or not she might be too qualified. If the person has a great attitude and is highly motivated, then you might want to give her a chance, especially if the other candidates are less qualified and don't seem like they will fit in with the company culture. Hiring is a tricky business. Sometimes it's okay to go with the person you like the most. If that person also happens to be highly qualified, then it will only benefit you and your company in the long run.


Once you have them, empower them. [A] study from Portland State University found that overqualified employees who are given decision-making power tend to be more satisfied with their jobs. [A] study performed by assistant professors from the University of Connecticut, the University of South Carolina and St. Ambrose University examined data on more than 5,000 Americans. Those examined, according to [a recent] Harvard Business Review article, were high-intelligence workers in jobs such as washing cars and collecting garbage. With those studied, high performance was the norm. By giving these employees autonomy, you show them that you have confidence in their abilities and respect the skills and qualifications they bring to the table. As a result, they stay with the company and often outperform their fellow employees.

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