How to Deal With Overqualified Employees

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You were looking for the right candidate for a position in your company that has been vacant for a while. You received numerous applications, shortlisted and interviewed some of them, got exhausted in the process, and still couldn’t find a single candidate who you think can do the job well. You begin to get frustrated, as this vacancy is causing hiccups in your company’s operations.

One day, you meet a candidate who seems to know everything the job entails. She has double the experience plus education qualification required for the role, and has a proven track record of achievements very similar to what you’d like her to achieve for your company. She impresses you with her ideas during the interview. You feel relieved on finally having found ‘the perfect match’ for the position. You are excited at the thought of getting more talent for less salary.

At the back of your mind, however, you are well aware that this candidate is overqualified for the job, but you choose to ignore your gut feeling on that. Your excitement on the perceived value she can bring into the company through her experience and expertise overshadows your greater wisdom. You offer her the job, and she accepts it.

Is that a happy ending to a tragic story? I’m afraid not. Unless you know how to deal with the situation, you actually invited over some tragedy into your company.

Hiring overqualified employees is a mistake many hiring managers or new business owners make. The good news is if managed in the right way, these employees can become a fast-forwarded means to your company’s growth and prosperity.

Following are some crucial guidelines for dealing with overqualified employees. Read through carefully, as each one of these has its own unique significance, ignoring which can cause serious damage not only to your company’s financials and culture, but also to your own morale as a business owner (especially if you have just started the business).


Understand their motives

If the employee is overqualified, she’s probably been earning more than what you’re offering for this role. Why did she apply for this job then? Apparently, she’s going through some circumstance or phase in life that compelled her to look for a ‘downgrade’ in career. Asking her about her circumstances would help you understand her motives behind taking this job. The earlier you clarify her motives, the better. If you don’t, then you’re setting yourself up for another HR glitch. Candidates who accept a job for short-term financial gain will probably leave as soon as a better opportunity comes over.


Engage them differently

When an employee is overqualified for a position, she’ll get bored or rather complacent in that role very fast. A common way for people to deal with this kind of complacency is to start doing the job on autopilot, which is not as productive as the job requires. If you have hired an overqualified employee, engage with her differently from others. Let her create new processes, mentor others, or make other value-added contributions. Doing this would not only let you benefit from the extra talent you have hired, but also make her psychologically tuned into the company environment.


Value their advice

Sincere and experienced employees feel restless when they sense something wrong in a business’s operations or ways of doing things. They don’t just take on a job to get salary at the end of the month. They truly want to contribute and provide value, and the first step for them to do that is to identify the problems that exist in the company’s procedures. If you have hired someone who is truly overqualified for the job, are you willing to listen to her advice and value her input? If not, you might as well not offer her the job in the first place.


Negotiate the perks

It’s usually easier to provide flexibility in the perks attached to a job package than the compensation itself. If you want to hire an employee who’s overqualified for the designated role, you may not be able to offer a higher salary than what’s been budgeted for it, but you may be able to give added benefits to the employee in other ways. For example, you can offer slightly higher flexibility to her than the rest of the employees in terms of working hours, assuming that senior professionals are more independent in ensuring their responsibilities are met, and thus don’t need to be tied up to very strict office hours. It is difficult for people who’ve been working from an office/cabin to move into a cubicle when they change jobs. If that’s the case with your employee, you can at least make sure that their sitting place has enough space around them that let’s them breathe comfortably.


Taking care of these points will help you retain the employee you hire, despite her being overqualified, and extract the benefits by letting her utilize her expertise in favor of your company.

Sana Uqaili

Sana Uqaili is a professional content creator and a strategic marketing adviser, who started off as a freelance copywriter and pass time blogger, and ended up offering her services as a full-fledged business in early 2019. Her ghostwriting contributions and digital marketing tactics have enhanced the Google rankings of various publications and corporate websites. Her passion for writing peaked in late 2019, when she started this site called Opinined. In 2020, she also started podcasting from her home during quarantine, and was able to gain great traction on her podcast channel during the global lockdown.

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