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Do you have any suggestions for someone who has entered a different phase of their life and becomes overqualfied because they no longer want to have so much responsibility in their job (despite explaining what leads them to the desire to seek a less qualified, lower paying job)?

"Overqualified" is a relative term. Sometimes, people want ANOTHER kind of responsibility different from what they had so successfully exercised in the past. No one has to justify their personal preferences. We all are entitled to "be ourselves," regardless of the opinions of others. Let them live THEIR lives and let us live our own. People come with unique personal motivations. No one has the right to tell others what they should want.

Just because you have a great strength, you have no obligation to apply it at all times.

Stuff like this ticks me off more than I can express. So what if a candidate is over qualified. They need a job - you have a job - it's a bad economy - help one another out and just hire them. "Exploit" them for all their talents, learn from them, have a great mentor for junior level people that you may not have time to nurture, and rather than look to the negative of gosh they left in a year or two - be thankful for the time you had them and the things you learned. Besides - who's to say the other candidate is going to stay long-term anyway?

When companies are loyal to nothing but their bottom line, they should not be surprised when employees are loyal to nothing but their wallets.

Modern corporations have reaped what they have sown.

We have purposely chosen to hire the "overqualified", knowing full well that they may choose to leave in a few years, but, if so, we will have had the opportunity to learn from their experience. And, we think our company is good enough that they might choose to stay when the economy turns. The "overqualified" are only a threat to the insecure or those companies who already know it all; companies with an inabiltiy to learn. These tendencies usually extend to an inablity to learn from their customers and the market as a whole, a reason why such companies fossilize and go out of business over time.

Interesting perspective Jim. I wonder if the owner of the company can be as transparent and loyal as you expect the overqualified employee to be? I know of an advisory group that says you should not share your exit strategy. Why? Because the employee may start looking elsewhere. Gee, do you think?

You hire amibitious people and they leave when you don't fit their ambitions.

I have to agree with Karen. Many people in this economy need jobs. Many have applied for jobs (perhaps jobs that are lower-level than those last occupied) because they want to work. If someone is qualified, why not hire him/her? A more "seasoned" employee who has been looking for a while is going to be grateful for the opportunity and will probably stay a lot longer than someone just starting their career and looking to "climb the ladder." It's short-sighted not to hire the most qualified person. What does "over-qualified" mean anyway? It's a recruiter's convenient excuse to dismiss someone. I think some people don't want to be challenged by a candidate who may possibly know more. Confident people should want to hire the most qualified person for the job.

While corporations exist for the owners, even charities are not run for the benefit of their employees, but for their "customers." It appears to be a universal truth that any manager who violates the purpose of the enterprise can and will be subject to discharge.

As I said, this is simply reality, not an ideal world. Who is to say that the junior person doesn't need the job more than the senior one?

Everyone who has posted responses here has supplied valid and relevant observations and comments. Thanks. And keep them coming!

I don't believe that any of the comments made here take the position that a company should be run for the "benefit of their employees". Rather it seems to me that what some of us believe is that the company can actually benefit by hiring some of these "overqualified" workers. Who can predict when any worker will leave to take another job? In my experience, every individual is different, and, sometimes people take a position for reasons other than compensation (i.e., location, hours, the chance to work on a cutting-edge project)and stay in jobs for reasons that have nothing to do with compensation or even job title. Anyway, I think the view presented here is too simplistic. I know that I, myself, several years ago took a lower level position because at that stage in my life I wanted less responsibility and a shorter commute.
I also don't think that hiring decisions should be make on who "needs" the job more. The company should hire the best person for the job, and if that person happens to be "overqualified", well, then maybe the hiring manager should celebrate -- they're getting a bargain.

From your article I can see that you are arrogant and narrow-minded and that you make the same mistake that so many recuiters and hiring managers make - you categorize people instead of considering each as an individual. I'm just acting the same way as you did when you wrote your article - categorizing you without even knowing you. How does it feel?

I fit into the 'overqualified' category I guess, however I suppose I am also 'underqualified' in that I could use some current experience to go with my many years of experience and wisdom. It would be nice if more companies and recruiters could understand that there are lots of people out there, especially now, that fall into that 'category', and they would make excellent hires and be happy to work and get some very current knowledge and experience.

It also appears to me that people who are working and have been working consistently, are possibly more current, and will be more likely to go to greener pastures as soon as the opportunities arise.

Finally, regarding loyalty, I agree with several of the other posts that question any loyalty that companies have towards their employees. That is almost non-existent these days, and has been for quite a long time. When you join a company, you are joining a company, not a family. How many families will get rid of their family memeber just as soon as it becomes convenient like so many companies do?

I believe you are underqualified to make the posting you did. Who hired you anyway?

I agree - it's been my experience that hiring overqualified employees almost always leads to a temporary employee. In fact, when someone is offered a job they are overqualified to do, they often accept it and never stop looking for their ideal job - even after they start the new job. Overqualified employees are sometimes employees with chips on their shoulders - and if not, they are typically unchallenged. If a better position opens up that can be offered, that can be a great thing but more often than not, a company will lose or terminate the employee.

It's tough - there are so many good people out there who need jobs and I am sure the human side of those who hire desperately want to help. But the facts are, the cost of a turnover is high and whether or not someone desperately needs work really can't play into a hiring decision.

Carly: I agree, but many don't and feel frightened that they will lose their jobs if they "overhire" and it doesn't work out for any of the possible reasons. They shiver in terror at the prospect of hearing, "I TOLD you so!"

Great parody, James! Just realize, when you read my musings, you get what you paid for it, which is as much as I get paid for this, too. My reality test is not "is it popular/desirable?" but "is it accurate? is it what a lot of managers think?" If we don't grok where they're coming from, we'll never be able to change it.

Maybe they are looking for the greater challenge and the job is not challenging them like their previous. They will move to a higher motivation. But complaint of loyalty, not when companies are loyal to share holders or family.

Roy: please restate your last thought, if it's different from the expected, "you can't complain that employees are disloyal to the company when the company is only loyal to itself." That is quite true.

Another thought...isn't there a way during the hiring interview to gauge a person's motivation for wanting the job? For example, is the applicant so desperate for a paycheck that even a step down is better than nothing at all? Or does the applicant want this particular job because it offers something they'd like to have - less responsibility, a shorter commute, the opportunity to work for an industry leader, etc. - and for that reason they are willing to take a step down in order to have it? (In other words: Why not ask them why they want the job?) The first person may leave more quickly than the second. Yet, if you don't even bring them in for an interview because both are "overqualified" you may in fact be missing out on an opportunity to hire a really good, long-term employee who can probably hit the ground running. What hiring manager wouldn't want that?

Carly: That's a good lesson for the applicant to take to heart. If they shape their story properly and make a good plausible logical case for why this is their dream job (even if it isn't), they can duck the bullet of being unjustly branded as a potentially toxic high-risk hire. Since hiring is a heuristic process of elimination, the last standing is typically the one with the least negative baggage. Being perceived as the candidate requiring the least training and probably fastest up to speed can buy you a lot of favor in the competition.

Wow, talk about stereotyping! "Today, an employee's first loyalty increasingly is to self, career and family; no longer to the employer of the moment." While this may be true in many cases, I don't think it's fair to apply this strictly to the overqualified category. From my experience this has nothing to do with your experience level. It has to do with the individual!

There are many people who fall into the category of "it's all about me". It doesn't matter whether it's work related or personal. "Me People" will never be loyal to a company regardless of their experience or pay rate. Hiring someone, regardless of their experience level, does not mean you're gaining a loyal employee.

Companies can gain loyalty by treating their employees fairly and with respect. Obviously many other factors come into play, i.e. enjoying the people they work with, company culture, and being challenged. If it's all about pay and what's in it for me, why is a less experienced employee more likely to stay than an overqualified employee?! “Me People” will never be completely loyal to any company.

As one who could be classified as an overqualified candidate, I can tell you that just because I take a lower paying job doesn't mean I'm going to jump ship because someone waives a better offer in my face.

If I like where I'm working and I'm afforded the same opportunity for advancement as any other employee, I'm not likely to move on. Respect and challenge people to build loyalty too - regardless of experience!

Your article only reinforces what I have found to be true in my job search - many of the people hiring or recruiting don't have a clue on how to best fill their open positions. Notice I say "many" not "all". I don't want to be accused of stereotyping!

Steve: As a labor economist who started in employment, I recognize there are always outliers and no generality is universally true in all cases. But I never claimed that only experienced workers follow self-interest; substantially EVERYone does (subject to statistical standard deviation, of course). There are routinely quite enough errors in my thinking and writing without being pilloried for something I DIDN'T say.


I love the last comment: "Today, an employee's first loyalty increasingly is to self, career and family; no longer to the employer of the moment." Jim, if your employer downsized you out of your job, what would you be willing to do to go back to work to pay your bills & provide for your family?

The bill that was up for a vote today in the Senate that would give US employers a break on their portion of the FICA tax for bringing back to the US jobs they had outsourced overseas was defeated. How loyal are those companies to anyone but the bottom line...and the CEO's deep pockets?

I've been downsized from my last two jobs, most recently last Monday. I was out of work for 13 months before going back to work September 9, 2009. I was paid $10,000 less than my highest paid counterpart and I was happy to have the job, even though I had much more experience that they did.

While money is important, being treated with respect, the opportunity for advancement, personal and professional growth is more important than the size of my paycheck. Any employer that can offer that will have more loyal employees.

Hi Jim,
While I see and value your point about hiring the over-qualified I have found that what the hiring manager lacks is the experience to deal with these situations, the attributes of the person they are hiring and the ability to take total advantage of both situations.
I have found that the best practice is to openly discuss the situation with the candidate. Talk about their over qualitfication status and what they propose to do about it.
My contention is and will continue to be that I can use their skills and experience to the total advantage of my company.
I make a deal with them, sign a contract and then work out all situations to the betterment of both parties involved.
I demand at least one year of service and a great reccomendation for another employee should they decide to leave. I find that thye take significantly less time to train. Significantly less micro-managing, and work more hours because they are greatful for the opportunity and the trust that they can do the job you brought them in to do.
I have had great success with this and believe that if the 'hiring' manager were more qualified they would understand and make the most of these potential emplyees from day one.
Steve Sapato www.stevesapato.com
Business owner and former CEO of InterActive Marketing, Inc.

Interesting. I believe that the standard of living of any employee is the direct responsibility of the employer. The whole world believed this until the 1980's when somebody figured out that if you put the letters CEO after your name you could commit theft, robbery and fraud using a pen as your weapon and never go to jail for it.

Brenda: (a) been there, done that; (b) loyalty down creates loyalty up.

Steve: right on! Thanks for the excellent "best practice" example. Unfortunately, most "hiring managers" lack the experience, skill, wisdom and authority that you had.

Matt: have to respectfully disagree with your premises. No employer (other than a slaveowner) can totally control the lifestyle choices of a worker. While a company may control what you earn, only your family is responsible for what it spends. The history of greed didn’t begin just yesterday; the term “robber barons” emerged in the 19th century before Teddy Roosevelt began trust-busting.

While there is some truth in this article, I find the last comment interesting, "Today, an employee's first loyalty increasingly is to self, career and family; no longer to the employer of the moment."

What the author calls "first loyalty" is a two-way street. Employers who make their business interests top priority and at the expense of their employees seem hypocritical to me. Such businesses first loyalty is to themselves. They seem to want to hire less experienced persons who won't ever question the party line or rock the boat. This also leads to paying out less money in wages to less experienced persons; which contributes to the profits of the business who again has a first loyalty to itself.

Of course, this is speaking in generalities. There are both business managers and potential experienced employees who do not fit these descriptions.

Exactly. Short-sighted employers and highly qualified candidates both face challenges. We all have a choice about which kind of managers and employees we choose to be.

The young man that cuts my grass is a good kid, and he takes pride in his work. I like him a lot, and I always pay him on time. That's a very simple example of the way an employer/employee relationship works.

He nor I believe that he that he should be consulted on all matters related to my yard. He gets no input into who is going to do my fertilizing or where I'm going to buy my sprinklers. He just works there.

And someday, I might not be able to afford the luxory of having him cut my grass, but the grass will still have to be cut. Or even more so, someday I might just decide that I want to spend more money on something other than my yard, so I just decide to cut it myself.

See what I'm getting at? Sometimes economic times demand a cutback in force, and at other times, you cutback the force because your priorities change.

I'm guessing I might be one of the few Gen X'ers to be posting on here, so I think my perspective is different. My employer and I have an agreement. I work for them, and they pay me. Someday one of us will decide to end that agreement.

I don't expect a job for life, and I don't feel that I owe it to them to stay with them if I'm no longer happy with my situation.

Cliff: you earn a rim shot, for a position well and clearly stated.

I'm sure the "whatever overqualified means" was most-likely for dramatic effect, but just in case..."over-qualified" means that the applicant greatly exceeds the mimimum specified requirements needed to successfully perform the essential functions of the job. For instance, the job asks for 5 years of engineering experience, and the applicant has spent the last 13 years as an engineering project manager overseeing multi-million-dollar projects.

That applicant is "over-qualified" to be a frontline mechanical engineer. Why would this person stick around?

It's a bad idea unless the open job is an instructional role (or a Wal-Mart greeter).

This hits home because I've had this happen in my IT orgainization twice since March. We hired two over-qualified candidates that had been laid off from management positions at large corporations. We brought them both in; one as a programmer and one to manage our ERP.

Both were gone by the end of August. As it turns out, neither ever stopped looking for work. We were a stop-gap in their unemployment.


I find it offensive that you consider a move by an “overqualified” employee to leave for more money (when economic situations improve) as an act of “betrayal” or that those particular employees have “obvious built-in grievance potentials.” Any unemployed person out there in this economy should be appreciative of an employer willing to give them a chance (EVEN if the job pays less and/or has less prestige than prior positions). But appreciation is way different than the eternal gratitude and unwavering loyalty that you are suggesting.

If an overqualified employee is able to provide valuable insights from past experiences, is able to utilize the methodologies and training necessary to increase a company’s productivity and profitability, and is a team-player for the duration of his or her unemployment (regardless of how long) then you should call it what is...a bargain! And what is to say that once such an employee leaves, that he she cannot maintain an amicable and on-going relationship with former colleagues and even utilize their connections and swing business their ex-employer’s way?

Davey: glad to see that others can exaggerate for effect even more than me. As I said, what a hiring manager might see as betrayal can be simple economic sense from the standpoint of the departee. But, things need not be negative at all. One should be able to describe things as seen from all perspectives without necessarily endorsing any of them or arbitrarily denying them, either. Describing an attitude does not constitute approval or imply that everyone shares the same feeling.

This is a professional compensation discussion forum, where all are free to exchange tradecraft ideas without prejudice, condemnation or suppression. Folks have done that quite well here, so far. I offer my congratulations to the prior posters, and positive encouragement to future ones, too!

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