Will your overqualified candidate stick around?



Most employers are hesitant and cautious when it comes to recruiting someone over qualified for a position. And with good reason. Recruiting takes time and costs money so it’s only natural that you don’t want to appoint someone to a role only to have them move on when the right opportunity for them pops up. There can be many genuine reasons why an over qualified person has applied for your job vacancy. Work – life balance, change of pace, reduced stress levels, being financially comfortable, wanting to give back, change of life ‘s priorities are all common reasons for someone wanting to apply for a lower level position.

On the flip side the hesitation from employers is often about will they stick around, will they try and take over, will they really be motivated and satisfied, can they adjust their lifestyle to manage the reduced salary. These are all the questions you need to satisfy yourself with if you are going to consider employing someone overqualified.

There can be a lot of added value and benefit in employing an over qualified candidate so don’t discount that over qualified application next time it lands on your desk. It’s worth taking the time to consider the candidate and through thorough probing you’ll have a better understanding of the candidates genuine motivations.

Here’s what you should look for:

  • Motivations

A candidate who is applying for a position they are over qualified for should be able to clearly articulate their motivations for applying for the job. This message should be consistent from when they first pick up the phone to enquire about the position, through their covering letter and throughout the interview process. Probe them on this motivation at each stage to make sure their response is consistent and consider their current circumstances. Are they currently not working and are they desperate to return to work? This can be a red flag because they may need to find a job to make ends meet and your job might be ok until something better comes along. Or are they turning down opportunities at a higher level, demonstrating their commitment to taking a step back. Asking them about their job search and the positions they are applying for will demonstrate if their actions are consistent with what they are telling you.

  • Salary

Candidates who are genuine about taking a job they are over qualified for will have done their research on salaries and will be realistic with their expectations. They will understand they need to take a pay cut given they will have less responsibility, less expectation to work additional hours etc. Candidates who talk about “starting” at the lower level salary and working back up to their current/previous salary are a concern. Probing the candidate around what their current salary expectations are and their expectations for increased earning potential are good conversations to have to make sure you are both on the same page. If your over qualified candidate is thinking after 6 months they’ll be able to negotiate a significantly higher salary and that’s not the case you need to communicate that now to reduce the risk of the candidate moving on when the salary doesn’t increase as quickly as they would like.

  • Where is their attention focused?

The questions a candidate asks and where they focus their attention regarding your vacancy can give you insight into their true motivations. While having one eye on the future can be a good thing, you want to make sure they have their eye on the right thing in the future. Candidates who spend more time asking about the next position up and are already looking for career progression before they have even got the lower level job can be a concern. A candidate who is genuine about taking a step back will be engaged and have plenty of questions for you about the role they are applying for, not the role they are qualified to do. Yes, they may have some questions about the structure of the organisation but if what they have told you regarding their motivations doesn’t align with the questions they are asking you about the opportunity then their motivations may not be genuine.

There are lots of reasons why you should always consider an over qualified candidate for your vacancy if the opportunity presents itself. The value an over qualified candidate can bring can often far out weigh the risk and maybe having that over qualified person for 12 months or a couple of years is of more value than not having the opportunity to tap in to that level of expertise at all.



Have you considered how your current salary compares to others in similar roles within Regional Victoria?  Visit www.regionalsalaries.com.au and compare your salary now, it’s free and anonymous.

Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au or by following Angela on LinkedIn.




Comments 2

  1. Bruce R Kendall

    Great post, and timely. The reasons for appointing an over qualified person, and in particular a 50yo+ person are well articulated in the blog.

    “…the hesitation from employers is often about will they stick around…”. Writing as a well qualified and experienced person with multi-sector and -discipline experience in the above age category, I find it perplexing when many employers take this stance given that millennials stay in a job on average for 2.7 years.

    Experience employing older and over qualified staff in previous roles when I was a young manager has taught me that these people will, more often than not, stay put rather than move if they are being treated well and enjoy the work and environment they are employed in. They are less likely to move for an extra few thousand dollars per annum because they likely are mortgage and dependent free, and in my own case no longer seek or want the prestige and commensurate pressures that go with higher office and associated salaries. They frequently don’t wish to take the risk of ‘jumping ship’ from a happy environment to one of unknown quantity and the down-sides that go with it.

    My frustrations are encapsulated above, compounded by my own experiences where in every managerial job I have ever had with direct reports, I have always inherited and had no trouble employing additional older and more experienced staff than myself. Hence my difficulty in coming to terms with employers and recruiters that have an issue with candidates in this category.

    Like employing staff generally, one has to be vigilant. But to not consider candidates because of their age, experience, or because they may be more qualified and experienced than you or the manager they will report to, is to also preclude these candidates from making a positive contribution to your business. Not everyone wants to be the boss, and many of us that have ‘been there, done that’ no longer wish to do it any more. What we want is to be happy, be respected for what we have done and can bring to an organisation, and most of all be happy going to work each day.

  2. Post
    Ange Connor

    Hi Bruce,
    Thank you for sharing your feedback and previous experience regarding this blog topic. It is very interesting to hear it from a different perspective.

    Warm regards,

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