Managing Overqualified Employees: The Why and How

5 Mins read

Managing overqualified employees has become a common situation for most companies and businesses, considering that the graduating students are outpacing the jobs requiring university degrees. A report from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) states that since 2006, the number of overqualified workers in the UK has increased by a third, currently standing at 5.1 million in the UK. But, why are overqualified employees applying for lower rank positions? How to manage overqualified employees, if there is any problem? This article will try to answer some of those questions.

Why are overqualified employees applying for lower rank positions?

Hiring overqualified employees could create a sense of risk for the employers. This way, managers often tend to avoid hiring such employees. But, with the right management of these employees, the risk can be minimized. 

There are many reasons why employees apply for a position for which they’re overqualified: 

  • Lack of executive positions and opportunity for growth;
  • Moving into a new living area (country, city, neighborhood);
  • Need for a flexible schedule;
  • New stages in family life (marriage, children);
  • Health problems, aging;
  • Wanting to experience other areas of life. 

Hiring overqualified employees

Depending on the company’s goals and requirements, hiring an overqualified employee could be a good fit. Consider hiring an overqualified employee if: 

Tasks need to be completed quickly

If you have multiple tasks that must be finished immediately, think about hiring an overqualified employee to execute them for you quickly. They often possess significant knowledge and expertise relevant to the work, so they are capable of completing critical forthcoming tasks swiftly and effectively, with little to no supervision or instruction.

There are temporarily available positions

Consider recruiting overqualified workers for temporary positions within your company if you want to assess how well they will perform there – before elevating them to senior-level positions. In order to determine if they are a good fit for your business and are prepared to work in an executive-level position that better corresponds to their level of experience. You can also better grasp their skills and capabilities by giving them these temporary positions.

They are passionate about the position

Some applicants had higher-level jobs in the past, but they later discovered they preferred the duties of some lower-level jobs. Consider recruiting applicants that have a genuine love for the position because they tend to be more engaged and dedicated to providing quality work.

Very often, hiring of overqualified employees depends on the level of capabilities and satisfaction that current managers hold. Check the grid below for a simple illustration. 

Managing overqualified employees

Pros of hiring overqualified employees

Depending on the needs and preferences of the business, as well as the duties of the position, some companies may find it advantageous to hire a candidate who is overqualified for the position.

Cost savings in terms of training

In many instances, it is optional to train the overqualified employee. Although they must be made aware of business processes, they may be the ones with the ability to train others.

Increasing the company’s quality

Hiring more overqualified applicants increases your chance of discovering more qualified candidates with substantial industry experience.

Increasing productivity and performance

Overqualified employees have advanced skill sets and are quick, talented learners who can help your firm operate better. This is especially helpful if your business wants to hire people quickly and have them take on specific tasks as soon as they join the organization in order to meet a deadline.

Mentorship for other employees

These applicants often have such a diverse skill set and experience level that they have lots of knowledge to offer to their team members. This raises the skill level and capabilities of other team members. They can impart to them new knowledge and skills that improve performance indicators within their own teams, departments, or throughout the entire company.

Quickly finding their place in the company

Before even beginning to work for your organization, overqualified individuals frequently possess an advanced skill set and thorough familiarity with the position. This implies that overqualified employees have a better chance of moving to senior or managerial roles more quickly. You might have more employees working in executive-level positions sooner once they have absorbed the fundamentals of your industry and your business’ operational strategy if you hire more people to fill out-of-the-way basic duties for which they are overqualified.

Cons of hiring overqualified employees

Poor job performance

Some overqualified employees seem to approach their new jobs negatively; they may get complacent, bored, or lazy. Employees who feel certain activities are too simple for them in certain circumstances may even try to assign their responsibilities to other employees. The first step to poor work performance and negligence is a mental rejection of the assigned task.

Increases turnover risk

Some applicants take a job for which they are overqualified but decide to give it a shot to see whether they like it nonetheless. They frequently depart for a job they believe suits them better as a result of this. Your turnover rates could rise if this continues with a large enough workforce.


The majority of studies available online show a strong and direct link between overqualification and work discontent. When poorly managed, overqualified personnel appear to be more prone to developing unfavorable work attitudes. This provides a simple justification for the practice of HR managers rejecting job applicants who are overqualified.

Creates a negative atmosphere

Overqualified employees who don’t feel challenged or motivated in their jobs could feel less motivated to finish assignments. As a result, they become less motivated, enthusiastic, and pleased in their work as a result, which can extend to other team members. As a result, the workplace becomes unpleasant, and other team members could lose motivation.

Managing overqualified employees

Whether you wanted to employ overqualified employees or are simply stuck in the position, there are a few steps you can take to best manage overqualified employees.

Necessary assistance and support

This is the first step. The more effective the employees are, the more valuable they are to your company. Remember that providing help doesn’t always need spending more money. Equally crucial is making sure that, given the time and resources at your disposal, you are giving your overqualified employees manageable and realistic expectations.

Show appreciation

All employees, not only overqualified employees, must feel that the organization and management value them. It’s not always necessary to find the perfect words of gratitude because everything is based on feelings and perceptions. You should be able to inform your overqualified employees of your appreciation as long as you can observe their efforts.

Offer possibilities for growth

Overqualified workers are motivated to grow personally and professionally. Providing opportunities for learning and development can have very positive benefits. Additionally, learning and growth can raise motivation by giving work a feeling of meaning and purpose, which will ultimately improve productivity and creativity.

Frequent modifications

If at all possible, the overqualified candidate’s initial role should be changed to better fit their skills and the problems they will face. Once employed, a person is not required to remain in that position indefinitely, especially if they demonstrate sufficient engagement and the capacity to advance.


Finally, employers who hire overqualified workers gain from their effectiveness, maturity, and innovation. Increased productivity and improved cost-effectiveness could result in thousands of dollars more in revenue. However, due to the widespread misconception that overqualification leads to high turnover, few businesses want to hire overqualified people. Great, valuable people are turned down, and impressive CVs are rejected. From a business standpoint, it would be much more prudent to realize that, if their hiring was handled appropriately, overqualified employees can actually prove to be a benefit to the organization.

Further Reading:

Digital Employee Experience: The Complete Guide
Inappropriate Jokes in the Workplace
Models of Change

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About author
Fatjona Gërguri is the content writer for Employee Experience Magazine, covering the relevant topics about employee experience, organizational culture and general HR topics.
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