What You Need to Know About Hiring Overqualified Candidates

With the national unemployment rate at 3.9%, you might notice when screening resumes there’s been an uptick in overqualified applicants. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Experienced candidates can be gems in their companies bringing a wealth of information and leadership abilities. But they also come with their own sets of criteria when it comes to matching them with the appropriate company, and you want to make sure they are the right hire. Read on to learn how to evaluate if an overqualified candidate is the right fit for your team.

Verify the Basics

Verifying resume experience and previous positions is typically one of the first steps you take before interviewing candidates. That doesn’t change just because the applicant is overqualified. You still want to understand their experience and think about how it will work best with your business. How relevant is it to your needs? Have they worked in your field for a long time? Look at their most recent experience and projects to see what responsibilities they’ve taken on and how they have succeeded.

Investigate Their Skills

Often, one of the big concerns about hiring more experienced candidates is that their skills (technical and otherwise) are out of date or they’ll need retraining. If you’re worried about this, start by checking the size of their previous companies. Larger companies often have employees for every step of the workflow process, so once your portion of the work is complete, you hand it off. Whereas candidates from smaller companies have often had extra responsibilities to make up for having fewer people. This is a great opportunity! Candidates who worked with smaller businesses and startups are often cross-trained in multiple workflows outside of their normal job descriptions, giving them more context into how the businesses operated.

But, you should still check on their knowledge base for skills in the areas you need most. The truth is, sometimes you will have to reshape certain aspects of an overqualified candidate’s skillset, but the other skills they offer could outweigh the cost to train them. Just make sure that the skills you most need are up to date so that you aren’t spending time training someone that won’t work out. If a candidate is coming from a different industry, look at transferrable skills. If they were a leader in one company, they could become a leader in yours once they understand the differences between the two. There are always some skills that can transfer from one industry and position to the next, the key is figuring out how to mold them into a company strength.

Gauge Customer Service Skills

Because experienced candidates are often in some sort of leadership position, they likely have the interpersonal skills needed to make sales and explain products to others with practiced ease. This makes them apt for customer or client facing positions. It can be a huge asset knowing you have a seasoned professional representing your brand. If you know you want someone with client-facing abilities, interview on client communication, sales tactics and sales metrics from previous positions. Focus on how they speak during the interview. Note how comfortable are they explaining their sales experience with you, you can use it as a baseline for customer-facing interactions.

Check for Culture and Team Add

There are so many wonderful aspects to hiring experienced candidates that get overlooked. One being, they typically know what kind of organization and teams they work best on. With less experienced and entry-level personnel, figuring out how they work best takes more trial and error. Overqualified candidates know what work processes, communication styles, and management styles work well for them. For those in leadership or management positions, they likely know how to inspire greatness from their teams because they’ve honed those skills over the years.

On the hiring end, it eases decisions for culture and team adds. If your candidate prefers working alone, a highly collaborative environment may be unsuitable (or require some adjustments on their part). When speaking to the candidate, be specific about the team they’ll be working with. What’s the dynamic and communication flow? Who are the personalities of their teammates and managers? By giving them all the information, you have a better chance of retaining an employee who brings added value to the group.

Clarify the position

When interviewing a highly experienced candidate, learn exactly what they’re looking for in a position. Are they looking for a leadership role or are they looking to step back and be more of an individual contributor? If they want to manage, ask about their style, approach, length of experience, etc.

If they want more responsibility without leading their own team, ask about willingness to mentor. Are they open to taking junior employees under their wing to help grow their careers? Would they be willing to run a workshop on their top skills? Or ask if they’d be comfortable helping with things outside the job description.

For example, if the candidate was a member of the hiring committee at their last job, you could utilize them as a hiring advisor. They could sit in on interviews and give their opinion on candidates. They’ll be able to contribute without additional responsibilities.

For some, they want a position without extra duties or management responsibilities. Some want long-term positions, and some want to work on a contract or project basis only. Whatever the case, be very clear about what to expect in the position and even what tasks they’ll do daily. You want to be transparent about the job duties so the candidate can decide if lighter responsibilities are right for them. Overqualified candidates can bring immense value to your company if you utilize their knowledge and expertise effectively.

Now that you’ve got a new hire, shift your focus to retention. Here are a few ways to keep your highly valued employees connected to your company.