Overqualified should not mean disqualified

IT managers e-mail me that they cannot find skilled people, and skilled people e-mail me that they cannot find work.

This almost humorous contradiction is worthy of some examination. When I ask people why they can’t find a position, they often respond that companies won’t hire them because they’re overqualified. I cannot think of a more frustrating reason for not landing a good job.

When I speak to managers about this, they’re quick to offer several reasons for their decision not to hire the overqualified. While these reasons have some validity, I question if they are really sufficient. Especially when one of our complaints is that skilled people are scarce.

The most commonly mentioned rationale for not hiring the overqualified candidate is the fear they will stumble across something more suited to their abilities and leave. This would force the manager to restart the painful, time consuming and expensive hiring process.

Fair enough — it sounds like a valid concern. But is it? It takes a long, frustrating, fruitless search for the perfect job before people finally admit to themselves they have to lower their sights. There is a chance they’ll stumble across the perfect job soon after we hire them, but it’s a small one.

There is a simple strategy which alleviates this risk significantly. Be honest with them; tell them you have this concern. “Jim, you’re well suited to the position. My concern is you’ll find a job more suitable to your talents and leave. If I were to offer you the position, I’d need some assurance you’d give me at least two years before you left for greener pastures. Would you be able to give me that assurance?”

To some, that approach is na

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