• Organizations typically consider an overqualified executive as a gamble.
  • It is important to note that overqualification does not entirely lead to lower job satisfaction or higher turnover.
  • Rather than labeling someone as overqualified, they can also be called as “well-qualified.”


Finding the right executive for the organization is tricky enough, but what happens when they are a little too experienced for the role?

Hiring an overqualified executive is an entirely different matter altogether. HR professionals typically describe an overqualified candidate as someone skilled or educated beyond the requirements of the position they are vying for.

Organizations might be missing out on the “ideal executive” for the firm if they eliminate someone overqualified for consideration.

Companies may typically look for candidates who are the ideal fit. They mainly look for someone with the necessary skills and experience, but also someone who will still be challenged and engaged enough to grow into the role.

An overqualified candidate for an executive position may break the mold and raise a lot of questions for the management in the long run.


What makes someone overqualified?

Applicants can be typically considered overqualified for a position when they have a higher educational background than what is generally required for the open position.

Candidates can also have too many years of experience in the industry. This can sometimes make the job they are applying for as a “step down” the corporate ladder instead of a “step up.”

Organizations typically consider an overqualified executive as a gamble. It can either have a positive long-term effect on the firm, or it can have an overall negative impact on the company.

Here’s a look at some real-world scenarios at what actually happens when a company hires overqualified candidates:


Cons of Hiring an Overqualified Candidate


  •   Boredom and dissatisfaction

Organizations often reject an overqualified job applicant when they think that they will find the role too uninteresting for their credentials. A study from the International Journal of Human Resource Management revealed that there is a direct correlation between overqualification and job dissatisfaction, leading to the development of “negative job attitudes” over time.


  •   Poor job performance

As an offshoot of boredom, hiring an overqualified candidate can eventually lead to poor job performance. Executives may sometimes feel like they are doing a job that is beneath them, and they simply refuse to do the work. In most cases, they will pass it off to one of their employees.


  •   Disrupts employee morale

When an executive gets onboard, their staff usually gather around to get the first impressions of their new boss. For employees who dream of climbing the corporate ladder, they may feel like it can be a threat for future advancement since the company has just hired someone that exceeds the qualification of a typical executive.


Pros of Hiring an Overqualified Candidate


  •   Brings expertise to the role

Overqualified candidates can inject fresh and new ideas to the organization. With their extensive experience, they can revamp the department they are assigned to and improve the team’s overall performance with new and innovative management styles.


  •   Outperforms co-workers

An overqualified candidate is typically easier to manage due to their experience in the industry. They are also self-sufficient enough to hold themselves accountable to supervise their team’s work and time management.


  •   Willingness to step up

Having an overqualified candidate onboard means that you are not only getting more educational experience, but you are also getting more industry experience. Having an executive that is considered as a veteran in the field means that they would be more than ready to step up and take more challenging roles.


Dispelling the myths

It is important to note that over-qualification does not entirely lead to lower job satisfaction or higher turnover. Rather than labeling someone as overqualified, they can also be called as “well-qualified.”

The interview stage is the best time to determine an overqualified executive’s seriousness for the role. It is also important to remember to be able to remove the initial recruitment bias for a candidate.

As such, organizations should not just assume that someone is overqualified based on a quick screen of credentials. There may be several reasons why they are interested in a specific position. The organization can think of ways on how they can make use of the executive’s “extra” experience.


The Harvard Business Review noted several things to consider when an organization hires someone with overly impressive credentials:

Think bigger than the job

When an organization considers an overqualified candidate for a specific position, the management needs to think of ways on how they can expand the role and utilize the skills they can bring to the company. Hiring an overqualified executive can also provide opportunities for mentorships among team members. It will help them discover employees with areas of expertise that are underutilized in the firm.


Bring them on carefully

Effective on-boarding is essential for an overqualified candidate. The management needs to properly set the candidate’s expectation of what will happen when they join the firm. They need a specific plan for the future and discuss beyond the initial transition stage when they may temporarily be underutilized for a while.


Pay what they are worth

If candidates are as good as the organizations as they think they are, then there’s a strong chance that other firms are also competing for them. It is not recommended to underpay an overqualified executive.

If the firm can’t afford the executive’s salary, then it would be better to pass on the candidate than to underpay them. The firm must have a frank conversation about promotion and compensation with the candidate so they will know what they are really getting into.


Here are some quick Dos and Don’ts guidelines to remember:


  •   Think broadly about the organizations and its future needs.
  •   Consider how to accommodate the candidate’s promising skillset.
  •   Onboard carefully and be clear about your plans.



  •   Define the hiring process as narrowly as possible to find one person for one role.
  •   Confuse education and experience with skills.
  •   Try to pay someone less than they are worth.


Need help finding the right executives for your firm? Let us help you.

Curran Daly & Associates is here to help you transform your recruitment process and get the best talent that your business needs.

Our team of experienced recruitment specialists has mastered its methodology of searching “hard-to-find” business leaders and other expert talents. Partner with us to learn more!



Should You Hire an Overqualified Professional? | Coburg Banks. (2020). Coburg Banks. Retrieved 29 March 2020, from https://www.coburgbanks.co.uk/blog/assessing-applicants/overqualified-professional/

Should you hire an ‘overqualified’ candidate? – Recruitment Advice. (2020). Tpp.co.uk. Retrieved 29 March 2020, from https://www.tpp.co.uk/employers/recruitment-advice/general-recruitment/should-you-hire-an-overqualified-candidate

Should You Hire an Overqualified Candidate?. (2011). Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 6 April 2020, from https://hbr.org/2011/03/should-you-hire-an-overqualifi

Should you hire someone overqualified? | Robert Half. (2018). Roberthalf.com.au. Retrieved 29 March 2020, from https://www.roberthalf.com.au/blog/employers/should-you-hire-someone-who-overqualified-job

This is what happens when you hire an overqualified candidate. (2020). Study.com. Retrieved 29 March 2020, from https://study.com/blog/this-is-what-happens-when-you-hire-an-overqualified-candidate.html

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!