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Overqualified: Is This Even a Thing?

By Carolyn Lee,


“Overqualified.” This is a term that everyone has heard of, but is it something that HR even considers these days? Maybe it is time to look at so-called overqualified people in a different way. There are many reasons why a person with a lot of experience and/or qualifications might apply for a job that they appear overqualified for:


Why Overqualified Candidates Apply

  • Changing careers
  • After a lay-off
  • After completing a contract position
  • Relocation


In these situations, job seekers may be fearful that they are taking a step down in their career path, earning less money, and could be bored with reduced responsibilities. For these reasons, many HR professionals choose to not consider these candidates, expecting turnover. However, many HR professionals are now looking at this differently: either you are qualified, or you are not.


There are many who believe the term “overqualified” is used as a cover for ageism – not considering applicants due to their advanced age. There is also a misunderstanding of what overqualified really means. Overqualified is usually defined as meeting and exceeding the skill requirements of the job. So, having a lot of education or experience (not directly related to the job) should not determine a candidate as overqualified. Here are some great reasons why to hire someone with more skills or experience than may appear to be needed:


Reasons to Hire Someone Overqualified

  • They may excel at the job with minimal to no ramp-up time
  • They may bring better ways of doing tasks or the work itself
  • The ability to do more than expected


It may be time to remove the term “overqualified” from our recruitment discussions. Or maybe, we can just think more about hiring “better qualified” candidates in the future.


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