Most of us have experienced, or at least heard of, occasions where a potential new hire has been rejected by the hiring company because someone thought the candidate was “overqualified”.
I can understand some hirers fearing candidates that appear to be smarter than they are. There’s that old saw about “‘A’-grade players hire other ‘A’ players, ‘B’s hire ‘C’s – people who don’t threaten them”.
And I can understand the fear that a highly-qualified candidate might find themselves in a job which fails to stretch them, and thus the possibility that they might not stick around in that job for long. Which would entail going through the whole hiring process again in just a few weeks or months.
Note: I say I can understand these fears, not that I regard them as having any merit.
But actually, these two issues are much more often about capability than qualifications (the latter being a poor indication of capability in any case). I suspect people use the term “over-qualified” rather than “over-capable” to cover up their fears – in the hope of making them undiscussable.
So, to speak plainly, some folks are fearful about hiring people who appear more capable than themselves, and some folks fear that highly-capable candidates might not tolerate a situation where their capabilities are being under-used.
To my mind these are two separate issues.
The first – fear of hiring capable people – speaks to the attitudes which might prevail in particular hirers.
I’m more interested in this post to look at the second issue – the fear that highly-capable candidates might leave out of boredom or lack of challenge.
The Path of Decline
Basically, what this says is that in the hiring organisation, good (capable) people will not have the opportunity to do good work. Which speaks to the system (the way the work works) in that organisation. It means that people already within the organisation realise (implicitly or explicitly) that the way the work works is borked. But rather than fix it, hirers choose to hire second- or third-rate candidates. It means that hirers accept that the organisation is going to be stuffed with less-capable people. It means that the organisation – probably unwittingly – has accepted a path of decline (a.k.a. left-drift).
How does your organisation deal with the over-capable candidates? And how often have you been declined, after interview, as over-capable?
Discussing the Undiscussable ~ Willam R. Noonan
Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: Chasing After the ‘Purple Squirrel’ ~ Knowledge@Wharton (Book review, interview)