Should You Hire Overqualified Workers?

They bring great experience, but they may not stay long

Accountants applying for cashier jobs. Sales executives fighting for retail positions. This isn’t all that uncommon in a competitive job market, as workers who previously held salaried jobs begin to go after hourly jobs. And we know you’re probably a little reluctant to hire people with three-page resumes for entry-level positions.

You might want to reconsider. Some small business owners feel like they’ve hit the employee jackpot when they hire people with more experience than the job requires. When a small Missouri moving company hired an experienced financial analyst for a claims manager position, the new employee immediately put his big-business skills to work by tracking spending and modernizing the procedures. So the company got a lot more than they paid for.

Here’s what the research says: overqualified workers do tend to perform better. However, these workers also tend to turn over faster and are less satisfied with their jobs. So which is more important: performance or longevity? And how do you decide whether to hire overqualified workers for your hourly positions? Here are a few things that can help.

Tailor your job descriptions and hiring goals to be very specific about the education level and experience what you’re looking for. This will make it easier to decide which candidates are well-suited for the job and may cut down on applications from people who don’t have the skills you need.

But don’t pass over an applicant just because he or she has more experience than you’re looking for. If a job application looks promising but leaves you wondering, “Why does this person want this job?” or “Can we afford to hire him or her?” go ahead and ask! Simply talking with overqualified job seekers will give you a sense of how serious they are about the job.

“The advantage of hiring a person who is seeking a survival job is that she or he will be an extremely hard worker and show up every day and do the work required,” says employment expert Dr. Randall Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers. “In the process, he or she may be able to offer advice or ideas that could eventually help the business in unexpected ways.”

Of course, you’re still left facing the big question: if you hire a worker who’s overqualified, how long will he or she stick around? “Unless the person realizes that this new work is extremely fulfilling and can somehow pay all his or her bills, yes, the employer is going to lose that worker eventually,” Hansen says.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The average turnover for hourly jobs in foodservice, for instance, is 150 percent. That means you may have two or three different employees filling a single hourly position in a year. If you’re already struggling with turnover in your hourly positions, hiring more qualified, more experienced workers for those positions may benefit you.

“The bottom line comes down to fit,” Hansen says. The job seeker must make a convincing case that she or he can fully do the work, wants to do the work and can be relied upon. And the hiring manager, he says, “has to make somewhat of a gut decision on whether the job seeker could really do the job – and be a good fit for the job and the company.”

You never know – your overqualified applicant just might turn out to be your star employee