Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

Should You Hire an Overqualified Candidate?

With the job market in the state it is in and with thousands upon thousands of job seekers searching for a job, there are overqualified candidates floating around out there trying to grab whatever job comes there way. They were laid-off from their top-level job and now have to take a pay cut. They left their last position because their boss knew they wouldn’t be able to find another job elsewhere so they were a tyrant and unbearable to deal with. They simply wanted a change. Whatever the reason, when an overqualified candidate is applying for your position, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t find anything better. However from an HR point of view, or a hiring manager’s point of view, is hiring an overqualified candidate a good idea?

When it comes to hiring an overqualified worker, it can really go either way. On top of that, it really depends on the candidate and you. However, there seem to be many more reasons NOT to hire an overqualified worker than reason to hire one. So why would you want to hire an overqualified worker in the first place? Well for one, this candidate might be overqualified but they’re also qualified. If you find that most of the other candidates are greatly under-qualified or just not up-to-par, then it may do you better to hire someone who has more experience and knows what they are doing.

Plus, an overqualified worker will bring a lot more to the table and will advance the role. On top of that, if you are looking to be promoted in the next few months or a year, then it may be a good idea to hire an overqualified worker so that they can take your job when you move up- there’s already someone there to replace you. Of course, this is all circumstantial and it may be unfair to hire someone based on these assumptions, but if it’s a reality then it works out for everyone in the end.

You also have to consider that perhaps this person just wants a break. Maybe their previous position took a lot out of them and was extremely stressful. They may have up and decided that they just didn’t want to deal with it anymore and opted to take a job with less stress and less expectations. In this case, they may be perfectly happy and willing to work with you and your team- even if they have heightened skills and are used to a higher pay. This position may be just what they were looking for.

Hiring an overqualified worker may be what’s best for the team as well. Overqualified workers can obviously get the job done and do a great job at it. With their knowledge and skills they can motivate the rest of the team to strive harder and work better. However, this leads us to one of the many reasons why you should not hire an overqualified worker.


If you hire someone overqualified for the job, then chances are they will burnout much faster than someone who was just qualified. Here’s why: overqualified workers come in, they have everything down and they get the job done quickly. Since they have mastered everything and already know the ins and outs, they become bored and disinterested. If they aren’t challenged at all they become less and less productive. When that happens they tend to become negative and frustrated. When this happens they’ll likely just bide their time until they can find a job that actually challenges them. This isn’t the case with all overqualified workers, but it certainly makes sense. Plus, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Lack of any challenge leads to lack of productivity. Simple fact.

Set in Their Ways
Again, just speaking in generalities here but if you hire an overqualified worker it may be exceedingly difficult to train them the way you want. Since they have great experience and a strong skill set, they may come in with a “been there, done that” attitude and have their own set ways of completing tasks. That’s great, but if the way you operate is different than theirs you may have a clash of opinion and difficulties may arise. If in the interview process they made it clear that they are willing to come into this position with an open mind, then this may not be such a big issue.

Job Hop
If you think about it, why is this person even taking a job they are overqualified for? Likely because it is so difficult now to find a really great job, and if they do the competition is fierce. Therefore, how can you guarantee that when (if) the market picks up again they will be willing to stay in a position they are overqualified for? Well, you can’t. If things start to improve this worker may decide to pack up and move on to greener pastures, leaving you the task of hiring another person.

Lastly, if this worker is overqualified for your the position, you may have to pay them more. Yes, many workers will be willing to take a pay cut for the sake of having a job, but you may end up having to pay them more than you initially thought. This is something you will have to decide on your own, but it’s definitely worth mulling over.

As you can see, there are a lot of advantages and disadvantages to hiring an overqualified worker. What you need to do is figure out what is most important to you and decide for yourself if hiring and overqualified worker is a good idea for your team and your company.

Have you ever hired an overqualified worker? Was it a great success or the complete opposite? Let us know in the comments section below!

IMAGE: Courtesy of MPI

Nicole Nicholson

Nicole is the Content Editor for Spark Hire and mainly writes for and edits the work for the Spark News blog. She graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She has a passion for writing, editing, and pretty much anything to do with content. In her free time she frequents the Chicago music scene and writes reviews on shows for her own personal blog. Connect with Nicole and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter

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