What to consider when a candidate appears overqualified
A changing workforce and dramatically altered employment landscape have put many highly qualified professionals in the job market. But are these candidates too qualified, or could they be the right people for the job?

Here are the key questions you might consider when candidates appear overqualified.

Why are they applying?

Huge workforce changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic mean hirers will receive more applications for advertised roles, says Kelly Van Nelson, Managing Director of Adecco Australia.

The reality of the pandemic is that many candidates may be applying for roles outside their usual career path, or roles they are overqualified for.

“Whilst job security is at the front of mind of many job seekers, some are genuinely looking to use this opportunity to kick-start their career on a new trajectory,” Van Nelson says.

“We are seeing many people switch industries and sectors and move their career into a different direction.

“All candidates have a solid set of transferable skills so it is about looking through their experience and selecting the best person for your business.”

Here’s what to know about identifying transferable skills now.

How can I assess ‘overqualified’ candidates?

Begin by looking at their career experience so far, which will give you a good indication of their qualification compared to the role requirements, Van Nelson says.

“They may appear overqualified on paper, but once you meet them you may be able to see they want to progress their career further through development of soft skills, new work experiences in a bigger business or through switching industries.”

A common concern is that overqualified employees will become bored or stagnant, she says.

“However, the impact they can have on other employees, lifting the culture, educating others and imparting their wisdom can be extremely beneficial to your business and shouldn’t be overlooked.”

How can I nurture overqualified or underqualified candidates?

Continual learning is something that needs to be offered to all staff, no matter how qualified they are, Van Nelson says.

“It is estimated that people lose around 40% of their skills every three years, meaning after less than 10 years, you are obsolete on the skills side. Without continual learning you will be left behind.

“Nurturing your team through upskilling and reskilling on an ongoing basis will help develop their career and your business.”

Here are ways you can maximise your training budget.

It’s also important to support employee wellbeing during the pandemic, Van Nelson says.

Giving new team members a “buddy” to help them adapt to the new workplace (in-house or remote) will help them understand the culture of the organisation and develop the soft skills they need to succeed.

Is there room for growth in the role?

Be clear with candidates about what the role is and what the opportunities are, says Richard Dunlop, Managing Director at Spring Professional, part of The Adecco Group.

“It may be that there is additional scope within the role that you can discuss with them as well as training and development opportunities.

“If you feel like they would be a good fit, assessing whether there are opportunities to add some additional responsibility, like managing or mentoring someone, might be beneficial.”

What management style do they prefer?

Some managers could be concerned about managing an employee with extensive experience, but this can be addressed during the interview, says Dunlop.

“Ask them how they like to be managed and what their current relationship with their manager is like. This will allow you to identify if it fits with your own style.”

Make the interview positive

And finally, if you discover during an interview that a candidate is definitely overqualified and they are rejected, it can still be a positive experience, says Paula Kirwan, General Manager of Davidson Executive and Boards.

“It can be quite a positive communication because you’re complimenting the candidate and outlining to them what the restrictions and frustrations might be if you were to offer them a role that they were clearly overqualified for.”

In this changing employment landscape, many highly qualified candidates are in the job market. Considering how you might assess these candidates, and support and manage them as employees, can help you decide whether they’re right for the role.