There are few more frustrating experiences than to go looking for a job and find that you are “overqualified.” That’s a strange phrase. It’s like being “too smart.” Can you really be “too smart?”
But every day, thousands of job candidates across the country are deemed overqualified and their job applications are tossed into the shredder. That’s what happens when unemployment surges and companies have more job applicants than they know what to do with.
It also occurs because companies have been burned in the past by hiring someone with a wealth of education and experience in positions that didn’t suit them. After a few months, some of those individuals go in search of another job because they don’t feel fulfilled or challenged by the work.
You can’t blame employers for shying away from these individuals. History shows they can often have motivation problems or develop poor attitudes if they feel they are being underutilized. But as the current recession lingers, many experienced workers — particularly middle and senior managers with years of experience — seem willing to accept less just to find a job. They often are older and fairly well set for retirement but need to bridge a few years working until they can retire. They often reduce their salary demands because of the job climate, just to get working again.
Bruce Katcher, a Massachusetts-based industrial/organizational psychologist, isn’t ready to throw away those potential workers. He thinks there is an opportunity for companies to hire and utilize highly experienced or successful people who can become strong components of their new company.
“It depends on how well you are able to integrate them into the organization, how flexible you can be with their salary, how well you provide them with the opportunity to use their skills, and how carefully nurture them along the way,” he says.
Katcher offers these tips for employers when hiring individuals they might fear are overqualified:
Provide realistic expectations. Make sure your assessment of the job responsibilities and potential are honest.
Spell out future plans. Let the worker knows that if they handle their job responsibilities well for a sustained period that they might be eligible for greater responsibilities and possibly higher pay.
Be flexible on pay. If paying a good worker 10 to 15 percent more will make them happy and keep them from leaving, grant the pay increase. But if someone wants a huge pay hike, don’t give in.
Introduce them carefully to the company and its employees. Relationships are what bind people to their employers so be skillful in how you integrate experienced workers to other employees and more challenging work teams.
Use the skills they have. You are hiring someone to do a certain job, but if they have other skills you aren’t using for that task, look at ways you can use them. This will go a long way in building loyalty.
Monitor them closely. Don’t just hire someone and hope for the best. Discuss their job performance and see how you can help make them feel more comfortable.
The best advice, Katcher says, is for an employer to keep an open mind about these workers, because they might exceed the company’s expectations.