Overqualified or just poor recruiting?

In the current economic climate many jobseekers are looking to change careers or take a step down to stay in employment, but they are often told that they have too much experience or are overqualified for the role. So what is preventing some recruiters from taking that small leap of imagination? Has being overqualified become an easy get-out clause for lazy recruiters?

Too many applicants

Part of the problem is, of course, the current employment market where employers are frequently bombarded with dozens of applications from jobseekers. Secretarial and customer services roles are especially popular, with an average of about 45 applicants per job, according to a recent Totaljobs survey. As a result, recruiters are now dismissing CVs at the briefest glance and opting only for people with very specific skills and experience.

Martyn Wright, director of HR recruitment at Robert Walters recruitment consultancy, notes: “Employers are holding all the cards and can be very specific about the background and skills they are looking for.”

Some recruiters may also be guilty of stereotyping and deciding what sort of person they want on board before they’ve even written up the job advert.  So says Jeff Ross, managing director at Hospitality Graduate Recruitment (h-g-r). “There’s a mindset in our industry where employers have a very set opinion of what they are looking for. And it’s not uncommon for candidates to be overlooked because recruiters think they would probably expect a higher salary package,” he comments.

But is it really acceptable to turn down someone with valid skills, enthusiasm and experience? Rebecca Clake, adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), says it’s often more a case of employers taking the ‘safe’ option.

Successful recruitment, Clake says, depends on finding people with the right expertise and qualifications, and the ability to make a positive contribution to the company. “Inevitably recruiters are interested in ‘organisation fit’: seeking out people who they think will operate well in the organisation’s culture and will want to stay.”

Employers may also be concerned that a candidate who is changing career or taking a step down could quickly lose interest in the role and want to move on. “What employers are most worried about is retaining their employees, which means keeping staff happy, stimulated and interested,” Wright explains. “Clearly, someone who is challenged by their job is going to find it more interesting than someone who finds their role easy.”

What should you do with overqualified candidates?

So how should you deal with someone who is, technically, overqualified for the role they are applying for? Louise Wolfenden, head of experienced hire recruitment at accountancy giant KPMG, says career motivation is an important factor to consider. “If an individual can demonstrate strong career motivation and has realistic expectations of the role, whatever the specific circumstances, line managers should fairly weigh up their application,” she advises.

The interview process should be made thorough enough to ensure that the recruiter addresses any concerns the jobseeker and the line manager may have about the candidate’s expectations. “Hiring managers would always want to ensure that the person taken on for a position understands the role and responsibilities and that this meets their expectations and career objectives in the short term – before taking on extra responsibilities which would come as they develop into role,” says Wolfenden.

Clake warns that employers have also got to make sure they avoid discriminating against overqualified applicants and realise that in always opting for a ‘safe’ choice they could be missing out on a great opportunity for their organisation to gain a talented individual. “Recruiters should avoid making assumptions about the jobseeker’s intentions for the job without discussing their concerns with the candidate. The candidate may be very happy to take a step down in responsibility and have a change of sector/role,” says Clake.

Ultimately, if you really want to tap into the best talent available, you’ll need to take a bit more time to look through CVs and avoid making rash assumptions about people before you’ve met them. And taking that small leap of imagination could make all the difference to your organisation.

1 Comment

  1. Jill Charlton January 15, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    An extremely interesting piece of journalism and a must to read for all potential employers and employees!.

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