Why OVER-QUALIFIED Can Deliver UBER-VALUE

Average life expectancy continues to climb with Americans in good health easily reaching their 80’s.  Age and financial necessity are influencing how long people are working and in what capacity.  Many seasoned professionals are trying to redesign their work/life balance and are surprised in how challenging the process has been to secure that desired lower responsibility job.

As a coach, I see many clients in their late 40’s and 50’s who have had a long and expansive career and are eager to either transfer their skills to another industry or gain back more work/life balance by applying for jobs in whichadding value they are knowingly over-qualified. These career or job changers initially assumed it would be easy to step down into a position of less responsibility.  On the contrary, they were surprised at the inherent prejudice in the hiring process when they routinely encountered managers who were not interested in interviewing an over-qualified applicant.

I can only assume that these employers are fearful of over-qualified candidates that will leave as soon as a better job comes along or that the supervisor feels threatened by the candidate’s experience in a direct report role.  For these reasons, many over-qualified candidates appear to be intentionally passed over.  I propose 5 reasons why hiring an over-qualified person may be the best hiring decision a company could make this year.

  1. Value, Value, Value: Over-qualified candidates understand a company pays for the roles and responsibilities of the position and not the qualifications of the person. If this candidate is willing to accept a competitive salary, a company is certainly getting more value for its money. What a great return on investment to report to the stockholders.
  2. Faster Growth: Having already seen and done that, over-qualified candidates may be able to get the team where they want to go faster.  Prior experience and learning can be helpful in developing a more effective strategy and in executing plans well.  Experience is a great asset!
  3. Mentorship: People who intentionally accept lower responsibility jobs usually enjoy mentoring less experienced colleagues. These over-qualified candidates are both knowledgeable and capable of becoming trainers and mentors to other employees without a great investment of other resources.
  4. Performance: Not only do these candidates bring a wealth of information, they are typically happier with their work/life balance. They bring an energy to work that can be contagious.  They perform well in their jobs and set an example for others.
  5. Leadership: Companies need leaders throughout the organization.  Leaders are the ones that companies rely on to rally the organization and get the job done.  Over-qualified employees inspire and support others to perform well and are usually the best cheerleaders on the team!

Not all over-qualified candidates will necessarily be a good fit.  I acknowledge some candidates apply for jobs they are over-qualified for based on financial necessity and continue to look for an upgrade.  There are, however, many overqualified candidates who are intentional in finding an environment where they can contribute despite a salary below their historical pay grade.  Identifying these over-qualified candidates, who bring uber-value, is best handled through a conversation versus making assumptions on why they applied for the position.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership and business development.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help organizations engage all their employees.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com.

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