Hiring the right person is harder when candidates are over- or under-qualified. Here's what to consider.

Is It Better To Hire Overqualified Or Underqualified People?

Angela MacDonald Jun 27, 2017 7:19:00 AM

Can you think of the last time you hired a truly perfect match for a role?

Yeah – us neither.

More often than not, hiring the right person involves looking at candidates who are either underqualified or overqualified. And although it might be easy to assume one is better than the other, there are benefits and drawbacks to choosing either. Here are some key things to consider the next time you’ve got candidates who are over or under your ideal job requirements:

Hiring an Underqualified Candidate

Hiring someone who may not have all the credentials for a role – or someone who hasn’t held a specific title before – doesn’t mean they’re unable to fulfill the position. What if they’re a visionary who hasn’t had the opportunity to truly flourish? Underqualified candidates have the potential to surprise you with innovative approaches to problems that have been stumping the rest of the team. Here are a few key factors to consider when you’re looking at underqualified candidates.

  • New Ideas: Hiring someone with lack of experience – or different experience – may allow for new ideas and valuable contributions that haven’t been attempted before. It may be time to change your ways and the type of candidates you are hiring.
  • Motivation: Someone who may lack certain credentials may be more eager to fulfill those requirements of the role. They're more likely to express more gratitude for the opportunity, and they may work harder to prove they're worth the investment.
  • Hidden Talent: Hidden talent is a lifesaver because it can be accessed at super-productive times when additional support is needed, or at mission-critical times when thinking outside the box is all you’ve got.

Hiring an Overqualified Candidate

Hiring someone with experience that’s above and beyond what the position requires is also an option. What if this candidate has experience and knowledge that will support your organization in advancing to that next level of success? Overqualified candidates can hit the ground running, using their existing knowledge and skills to push the company forward almost immediately. Consider these things if you’re thinking about hiring an overqualified candidate:

  • High Performers: A high performer with knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) that are higher than what the position requires can support the role and your company in ways that can create success and growth in a shorter period of time. It may require some searching on your part, or on the part of an external recruiter, but bringing on some competent high performers can really speed up the pace.
  • Short Onboarding & Fast Results: You may find you spend less time onboarding, since their KSAs are already well developed for the position. They often require minimal training and are easier to manage, which can translate into faster results.
  • Promotion Potential: With an excess of qualifications for the role, they’re already set to advance your company, which could allow them to experience – and perhaps expect – career growth within your organization. If you have a long-term plan for the position and the candidate, this is an opportunity to invest in them and increase the likelihood of keeping them around year after year.

Pro Tip: Discover a hiring process that's efficient and accurate during our free Lunch & Learn webinar on June 29!

Remember that these benefits can also have drawbacks. Overqualified candidates may be able to hit the ground running, but they might need more out of the role after a shorter period of time. Underqualified candidates may be more likely to think outside the box, but it could take some time before they’re ready to make waves in the organization. Think about the candidates, and how their personalities align with the temperamental requirements of the role. No matter whether they’re overqualified or underqualified, their personality is a strong indicator of how they’re likely to perform on the job.

The needs of your organization may dictate choosing an underqualified or an overqualified candidate, and one option isn’t better than the other. Will your underqualified candidate rise up and become a top performer? Will your overqualified candidate leap over tall challenges in a single bound? Only time will tell for sure – but a good predictor comes from understanding your candidates’ personalities, and how they’re likely to perform in the role you’re hiring for.

Stop hiring the wrong people with this free quick guide to using personality assessments

Topics: Hiring Strategies, Recruitment

Angela MacDonald

Written by Angela MacDonald

Angela is the Manager, Client Success and Training at McQuaig where she consults, educates, trains, and develops clients in regards to successful hiring, onboarding, and developing the best staff.