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How to Handle Overqualified Candidates

Overqualified candidates can be a challenge, since they often come with a high price tag, questionable commitment levels, and difficulty adjusting to a given workplace culture. But for long list of reasons, an overqualified candidate might also be the best thing that ever happened to your company. So how can you make sure you recognize a valuable human asset when you see one? And if you suspect your candidate is overqualified, how can you avoid making false assumptions and losing a potentially terrific employee?

Handling Overqualified Candidates

1. Don’t decide before you investigate. If you encounter a candidate who seems too good to be true, or too good to be affordable, confirm your suspicions before you reject the candidate out of hand. A simple phone call—prior to a formal screening or interview—can allow you to take some key concerns off the table.

2. During your pre-screening, be direct with the candidate. Don’t hedge, imply, or suggest. Just let her know the exact level of the position (which may be more junior than she realizes), and state your concerns. As in “We’re afraid you might be a little overqualified for this role.” Let her address these concerns in her own words.

3. If you decide to follow through with a formal interview, you can feel free to ask the candidate to provide her expected salary range. After the interview, you can take these numbers and work to align them with your budget before you begin the negotiation process. If the lowest end of her range is still far too high, you can let her go, but at least you’ve given yourself a chance to confirm this.

4. If attitude issues might be a problem or you suspect your candidate will be unwilling to accept her position in the hierarchy, you can also address this directly before you pursue the process any further. Let her know that she’ll be reporting to others who may be younger or less experienced that she is, and ask her how she intends to deal with any potential conflicts this may generate.

5. Discuss the length of her potential commitment. Though she may not be contractually bound by her answer, ask her if she’ll be willing and able to maintain this position for two years, five years, or however long it may take for your hiring and training investment to pay off.

For more in how to approach a potentially overqualified candidate without missing a great opportunity, reach out to the NC staffing pros at PSU.