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Perks of hiring the overqualified in today's job economy

Job seekers attend a resume writing class during a Boot Camp for job seeker.
Job seekers attend a resume writing class during a Boot Camp for job seeker.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Bureau of Labor Statistics reports hiring rates are increasing in 2014.


The verdict is still out on whether the House of Representatives will cooperate with the Senate's bill for unemployment extensions for the long-term unemployed from December to May. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rates in February of this year are lower than February of 2013 for 338 of 372 metropolitan areas. The national unemployment rate from February's stats went from 8.1 percent to 7 percent in a year's time.

And while the Senate and the House go back and forth debating the long-term unemployed, there's currently a hiring total of 54.3 million and separations of 52.2 million. And in the middle of these groups, candidates deemed to be overqualified struggle to find new employment. Some of them are the long-term unemployed.

The perk of having a lot of experience in a job industry is it can bring great relief to a hiring manager who needs someone who knows how to do the job with minimal training. For managers who shy away from micromanagement, qualified candidates are a big deal. But there's a fine line between qualified and overqualified that both the hiring manager and the applicant may have to figure out. The overqualified candidate must pay extra attention to the details of the company and the job description.

  • What are the areas that could use improvement?
  • What is it about this industry that would make the hiring manager want to hire this person?
  • How does the applicant explain being able to deal with the risk of lower pay?
  • And what will make the applicant memorable to the hiring manager?

The hiring manager will probably have these same concerns when choosing a candidate. Hiring a candidate to train for a position is easy enough, but there are no promises that the candidate with less experience will be able to do the job as effectively as the overqualified candidate.

Here's the bigger question: Is the overqualified candidate really "over" the limit in what the hiring manager is looking for? Or, is there an opportunity for advancement?

Finding areas to improve in

Maybe the applicant has fill-in-the-blank years in a previous position but could use a bit more experience in another area (ex. print photographer who hasn't quite mastered Photoshop for digital photography). Or, maybe the applicant would be useful for this current job until another department job is available.

It may be a better idea to catch an applicant willing to compromise on pay and move the applicant up to a better job than to lose the applicant altogether and miss out on a great opportunity. Using the same example of the photographer, online, print and promo material will always need photos. Maybe the photographer would be willing to take slightly less pay in order to take a class to improve his digital photo editing skills.

Use the applicant's strengths to handle bigger projects

Hiring managers may also want to talk to their peers. Is it possible that this applicant could get the ball rolling for another project that the company has been meaning to do? Concerns that the overqualified candidate will get bored may greatly decrease if there are job opportunities that are new to both the company and the applicant. Maybe the photographer could be the lead project manager on a marketing campaign or a social media campaign that needs artwork. Stock art just doesn't have the same spice as an in-house photographer who can take local pictures that make the company more personal to customers.

Humble pie for the overqualified candidate

Some applicants say "Good riddance" to the company that laid them off. Others rationalize that losing a job is business, not personal. But the third group has a bit more of a challenge. This is the group that never wanted to leave the job and is still trying to get over the breakup. And sometimes that attitude can bleed over into the next position. The overqualified candidate will have to humble himself enough to not constantly criticize the company about what his last job did. Hiring managers have already often met potential applicants or employees who feel the need to constantly mention how their last job's culture was. It's about as unproductive as someone talking to his current significant other about his ex. You're not dating her anymore. Get over her and focus on the new person. If he can get past his own past and still have a firm grasp of how to bridge his current professional strengths with that of the company, the transition will be much easier.

Explaining lower pay for both perspectives

For some applicants, lower pay is not a problem. For companies that encourage or don't mind outside activities, freelance employers can take advantage of their skills taking on additional side jobs. But for the company that wants an applicant that is 100 percent dedicated to the job, lower pay may be a deal breaker. It takes a special kind of dedication for a freelancer to be able to be financially comfortable. And more often than not, the freelancer may need steady pay and side pay. The applicant needs to be able to explain why this job is so important to him for steady work. The company must be open-minded enough to realize just how difficult the current job market is. Even those who currently have full-time employment can see how difficult it is to find a full-time or even part-time job these days. Not too many people have the luxury of jumping ship because they feel like it.

Before pushing that stellar resume to the slush pile, consider the potential of the overqualified candidate. Anyone can submit a resume, but not everyone can do every job. Take advantage of all the perks that the overqualified candidate is willing to offer, and the overqualified candidate must be able to sell himself on what he can do for the company.

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