Should You Hire an Overqualified Candidate?
On the QuickBase blog, readers submit questions and my fellow authors and I weigh in with our opinions and advice. Here is the February question:
I’m currently hiring for a policy analyst position. Our position description says that we expect a graduate degree in public policy or related field, and at least 2-5 years of work experience.
In the stack of applications, we’ve received several from people who have significantly more work experience than I do. In an ordinary labor market, I’d say that they were overqualified, and have the standard concerns — they don’t really understand the position, they will want more money than we can offer. But in this economy, I get that there are people who understand the money and the job, are overqualified, but want it anyway. And I don’t want to discriminate on the basis of age. Any suggestions for how to decide if they’re worth considering? What interview questions should I be asking if I do interview them?
My answer is…
Overqualification is an interesting concept. Selection systems are generally designed to eliminate the underqualified and create a comparison of ability between candidates. So someone being overqualified would seem to be a bonus. I suspect your concern is not that someone is overqualified. The concern, instead, is whether they are a good fit for the position, whether you can afford them, and if there will be a retention issue. Fortunately, these are easily addressed. For example, by being upfront with the salary for the position, you can eliminate the issue of pay right away.
When I am hiring for a position, I differentiate between screening questions and interview questions. Screening questions are asked immediately after a resume submission or application and they weed out (“select out”) inappropriate candidates. They have a way of highlighting red flags and obviously wrong candidates. In your case, screening questions might be about their desired salary or their expectations for the position. Interview questions, on the other hand, are presented to the top few candidates and are designed to narrow down (“select in”) the top candidates. Interview questions might include asking them why they want this position and asking them to make a case for why they are the best person for this role. Ask every candidate all the same questions and determine rating criteria and how you will evaluate candidates before you start.
It’s important to be methodical during the selection process because many of the concerns hiring managers have about overqualified candidates are based on stereotypes rather than reality. You do not want to miss out on top talent because of fear and ambiguous concerns. Be straightforward with the pay, the position, and the expectations. Examine the candidate in their entirety and what they can do for the organization—neither discount nor assign any extra weight to the fact that they may be “overqualified.”
To see the other three expert answers, please view the original post: 360° Answers: The Quandary of Hiring Overqualified Candidates.