Being overqualified is an increasing problem for graduates within today’s workplace. The ONS has recently reported figures that 31% of graduates are actually ‘too educated’ for the roles they are filling. Statistics also show that this occurrence is not just limited to graduates, it seems that workers aged between 25 to 49 - a large proportion of the UK’s workforce, are more likely to be over-qualified for the positions they are in.
Of course, education and qualifications are a measure of an individual’s knowledge rather than their skill or ability to do their role, but it does beg the question as to whether there is something more that leaders and companies can be doing to leverage the capabilities that over-qualified people offer?
Knowing the full extent of a person’s capability, might prove to be enlightening. Often leaders who inherit a team, are unaware of the capabilities of each team member. As a leader, you should be asking yourself if you really know what strengths a team member has, and what motivates them. Understanding your team members allows leaders to utilise their team more effectively, by providing people to work on interesting projects and initiatives and by considering where else in the organisation their skills and capabilities could be valuable. Engaging in getting a better understanding of what someone brings to the table, also helps people to feel valued, knowing that their knowledge and expertise is being utilised.
Don’t dismiss people who might be overqualified and seeking employment. There is certainly an argument to suggest that there’s no such thing as an overqualified candidate. There are many reasons, why individuals may decide to take on a role that they are over qualified for. Being open to considering the individual could prove to be a great decision, with the individual bringing additional capabilities to the team.
The “avid learner” represents another sector that may find themselves being considered over-qualified. Yet, interestingly enough, individuals motivated by a thirst for learning vs. position make them great candidates for companies looking to add depth to their team, while at the same time managing their budgets. Individuals who are constant learners, are often highly adaptive in the roles that they can undertake and so are often good sources of talent for start-ups, who are often limited by capital to add depth to their teams and who greatly benefit from people who can be strong utility players. Companies who view over-qualified candidates as part of a larger talent, benefit from seeing the value of hiring for “this and the next job” ensuring that they have the bench-strength they need when the next opportunity arrives.
The reality is that companies who reject over-qualified candidates because they fear the individual will be unhappy or a potential flight risk, fail to consider all the upsides that over-qualified people provide. From the ability to being able to hit the ground running much faster, to likely needing less management time and direction, right the way through to you get much more than you pay for in terms of capability and skill, it seems somewhat counter-intuitive to not want to explore what they can offer.
The final benefit of hiring an overqualified candidate is that you potentially have a ready-now mentor, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be shared with others.
Instead of being apprehensive of hiring overqualified staff, focus on the benefits and how these ambitious and knowledgeable individuals can help to develop or even overhaul your organisations. Many of them are eager to show the value that they can bring, so why lose out on what could be some great talent?