Candidate Pools & Proactive Recruiting, Hiring & Recruiting

Hiring Someone Overqualified: Pros and Cons

When you are having trouble filling a position, it can be a real temptation to hire any candidate just to fill the position. But we all know that hiring the wrong person can end up being more costly in the long run—especially if the new hire causes any problems.

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The risk of hiring the wrong person can take many forms—no one wants to hire someone who is not capable of the job, nor someone who will cause interpersonal issues. But what about hiring someone who is clearly capable—so much so that they’re probably overqualified for the role in question? What are the pros and cons of hiring someone with an experience level that greatly exceeds the job requirements?

Pros to Hiring Someone Overqualified

First, let’s take a look at the potential advantages to hiring someone who is overqualified for the role:

  • Broaden the talent pool. By simply having a hiring process that does not automatically screen out potentially overqualified candidates, you’re opening up the possibility of better qualified applicants into the talent funnel.
  • Create a fast track to future responsibilities. A new hire with a lot of experience will be well-placed to move up in the organization and take on more responsibilities, which can help with talent development plans in the organization. The individual may be well suited to quickly evolve into a more senior role or take on more leadership responsibilities.
  • Achieve a faster return to full productivity. With more experience, the new employee should be up to full productivity much faster than the average new hire.
  • Reduce training costs. Likewise, the new hire should require less training when first getting started.
  • Set higher expectations for the role. Getting a higher level of experience in the role could mean the person is able to accomplish his or her goals faster and achieve more in the position.
  • Reduce management required. Someone with more experience likely will require less hands-on management, at least during the onboarding phase.
  • Increase the stature of the role. Bringing on someone highly qualified is a way to upgrade the overall talent level in the organization. With more experience, this person may have a lot of great ideas on how to improve processes. Additionally, he or she may bring new expertise to the role and may be able to more quickly spot opportunities. Someone with more experience may also be more likely to have great networking connections the organization can benefit from.
  • Achieve a fast return on investment. The organization may be able to get a fast return on investment during the employee’s time there. As just noted, the employee may be able to make changes that improve the role long after he or she is gone. (This can help to offset the risk of short tenure and the possibility that the individual may require higher pay.)
  • Elevate the whole team. Your overqualified employee may be able to teach things to other team members and bring up the skill set of the whole group. Separately, he or she may be a good candidate to mentor others. Other employees may appreciate that the new hire is already experienced and knowledgeable and doesn’t need a lot of help.
  • Avoid legal questions. Hiring someone who is overqualified can be seen as a way to avoid the appearance of discrimination, thus reducing the risk of such a claim. (Such a risk may exist if the organization routinely dismisses otherwise qualified candidates.)

Cons to Hiring Someone Overqualified

Here are a few of the potential drawbacks to hiring someone overqualified for the role:

  • Turnover risk is high. There is a risk the person will soon leave for a job he or she is better suited for.
  • Boredom is also a risk. There is a risk of the new hire being bored or frustrated and having a negative influence on morale over time as a result.
  • Training may not be as simple as you’d like. If the individual already has a lot of experience, he or she may be set in his or her ways—making it tougher to adapt to your organization’s specific processes and thus taking more time to train instead of less.
  • Other employees may be wary. Bringing someone overqualified into a role can cause anxiety among other employees (or even the new hire’s manager) if it is perceived that the new person may end up replacing existing employees.
  • Payroll budget may be stretched. You may have to pay more for the position than you originally intended, in order to bring someone on who has more skills. (Though it’s worth noting this is not always the case; you may be able to avoid this issue by posting the salary range on offer directly in the job post.)
  • Skill set may need refreshed. Even with a lot of experience, there’s not a guarantee of having updated skills. The new hire may not be as advanced on newer processes or technology options and may still require training. This isn’t a deal breaker but may negate some of the benefit of hiring someone overqualified if he or she still requires substantial training.

If you find yourself in the position of considering hiring someone who is overqualified, take some time to assess the risks. For example, take time to understand the individual’s goals. Is this person looking for fast progression in the organization? If yes, will that be possible?

Ask the potential new hire what he or she is looking for in the position. Is this a way to gain experience in a new area, or a way to get started with a new company? Or is it just a placeholder role while the candidate keeps looking for something better? (Obviously, he or she may never say the latter, but by asking what the candidate is looking for in this role, you can get a feel for how serious he or she is about the company.)

Once you ask these questions, you can start to get an idea of how the individual views the role and whether he or she will be an asset to the team in the long run.