Being “overqualified” is arguably the most common, yet most misunderstood reason for rejection on job applications. Many candidates ask if there is really such thing as being “too qualified”.

What is overqualified?

Candidates are described as “overqualified” when they are skilled or educated beyond the requirements of the role. For example, the job specification for a role may require 2 years’ experience. If someone applies with 5+ years’ experience, they might be deemed as “overqualified” as they are likely to be on a higher salary than the role will offer, as well as have a higher requirement of the complexity of duties etc.

Understanding the reason for the application:

It is important to understand the reasoning behind a candidates application before deciding whether they are overqualified or not. There could be various reasons why a candidate has applied to a job that requires a lower level than they are currently at. A shift in industry, new location, looking for a lower stress role or better work life balance are all great examples. 

Thinking to the future:

When considering who is overqualified for the job, it’s always worth looking at the big picture. When making hiring decisions, the best leaders don’t just consider current needs, but also look to the future.

Overqualified candidates can have other skills in areas that are not required for a particular role but may be useful for the organisation as a whole. This will give your company flexibility for the future, rather than just fulfilling an immediate need. One of the most detrimental things you can do is only look at that candidate’s job title and judge their ability just off that.

Being honest:

If you are considering an overqualified candidate for a position, it’s extremely important to be upfront about the role’s potential right from the start. This means being honest about salary, benefits and promotion prospects. This will show that you are not over-promising so they know what to expect from the role. Make sure that the candidate is happy with the terms, so you don’t end up with a non-starter. It’s also important to consider your current employees and whether they would work well with this candidate.

Things to think about:

Never reject an “overqualified” candidate without considering all of your options first. It can be difficult for any hiring manager to fully judge a candidate’s motivation and dedication to a role without at least offering them an opportunity to meet with you face to face for an interview. If you do interview them and you feel they are still not a good fit for your organisation, that could help you to refine your person specification and re-direct your job search.

Hiring an overqualified candidate is considered a risk, but sometimes you have to take risks to realise an organisation’s full potential. When weighing up the pros and cons, there are many more benefits to hiring an overqualified candidate. Even if they do turn out to be there short-term, they could still make a positive long-term impact on your organisation.