Will your overqualified candidate stick around?

Ange Connor

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.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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