What does being overqualified mean for the recruitment process?

There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding the role overqualified candidates play in a workforce. What needs to change?


There are a number of aspects of the job application process that can add extra stress for candidates. From wondering whether the role is the right one to questions regarding potential remuneration, it’s not always easy to make decisions during this time.

However, there’s a larger issue occupying the minds of both candidates and employers that doesn’t necessarily have to be seen in a negative light. The range of preconceptions and myths surrounding overqualified workers can hamper the careers of professionals and limit talent acquisition for businesses.

With new research revealing that being overqualified for a role can actually be an advantage in many situations, it’s time for candidates and organisations alike to refresh their approach to this issue.

What myths do people need to overcome?

The myth of the overqualified candidate is one that has long been a discussion point for jobseekers and employers, and could be limiting both parties from achieving their respective goals. In worst-case scenarios, the pressure of feeling overqualified could prevent people from applying for their dream jobs, or result in organisations missing out on a valuable team member.

The most dangerous aspect of this myth, as the Harvard Business Review (HBR) discussed in a 2010 article, is that it’s an issue that can quickly spiral out of control. The publication drew on the fact that a large sector of the unemployed population in the US at the time fell into this group, a worrying fact for any candidate who might also be in this position.

HBR discussed the fact that this does not necessarily need to be a pervasive trend, as it is a situation that can be easily reversed. The article stated that this can create a valuable pool of not just talented workers, but eager ones as well. However, remedying these outcomes does rely on employers taking notice and acting accordingly.

Some of the other myths that can affect the way over-qualified candidates are treated in the market include the misconception that they often are easily bored by these roles and can possess unrealistic expectations. As new research reveals, this isn’t the case at all.

What positives can overqualified candidates bring to an organisation?

The University of Notre Dame recently investigated the way over-qualified candidates can positively affect an organisation. As confidence is a key aspect of success in the job market, it’s important that people who fit into this category realise their excess experience and qualifications are a benefit and not a drawback.

According to the university’s researchers, these benefits are compounded in situations where multiple candidates who would usually be considered overqualified are working together. Assistant Professor Jane Hu noted that this fact is an important one for hiring managers to consider.

“When overqualification becomes a norm rather than exception within the group, they tend to have more favourable reactions toward their own overqualification status and perform better,” she explained.

“Managers could also encourage more interactions among members to build team spirit, emphasising the importance of benefiting others through one’s work, and highlight the interpersonal compatibility within a group to promote the positive influence of overqualification on employee attitudes and behaviours.”

Essentially, employers looking to make the most of over qualified candidates need to understand how a workplace’s culture can evolve to further support them. By focussing on the many positives these candidates can bring to the workforce such as experience, businesses can create a much more open and supportive environment for these candidates.

How else will the recruitment market change for candidates in 2016?

LinkedIn detailed the many trends set to dominate the recruitment market in 2016, with a few set to change the way employers and candidates interact with one another.

The competitive nature of the IT job market means it’s not just candidates who need to change the way they approach the recruitment process, but employers as well. LinkedIn notes that the concept of businesses developing an employer brand is growing its influence, with 59 per cent of respondents indicating they will be ramping up these efforts in 2016.

Organisations are using a range of different mediums to promote their employer brands, as improving this is now one of recruiters’ top priorities for 2016. According to LinkedIn’s research, while employers believe their company website is the best place to promote this cause, it is quickly losing ground to both professional personal social media networks.

As networks like Facebook, Twitter and many others evolve to better accommodate businesses and their respective needs, the way employers and candidates engage with each other could shift dramatically.

LinkedIn reported that many organisations are merging these concepts with their marketing department, suggesting there are interesting parallels between the way a business promotes its products and the way it communicates the wider aspects of its culture to candidates.

Ultimately, the relationship between employers and candidates will change throughout 2016. However, a shift towards improving workplace culture for over-qualified candidates is likely to result in more inclusive and productive organisations.