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09/27/2010

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Jim,
I’ll concede that the article struck a particular nerve with me...so I think my perceived exaggeration stems from my just being royally P.O.’d from what has happened on a personal level these past 11 months. When I graduated from college over decade ago in a relatively good economy, I could only find clerical and short-term temp work, so I made a commitment to myself to find and acquire tools necessary to make myself “employable”, including getting a Masters, doing scores of internships, working my way up the job ladder, getting all of the necessary certifications/training in my field, etc. However, since being laid-off back in October ’09, I’ve been rejected (what certainly seems like) countless times based on my being “overqualified.” So at this point it certainly seems like all of this experience was for nothing. And frankly at my age and level of experience, I would not consider myself overqualified at all. But during an interview, when the one of first statements uttered out of a recruiter’s/hiring manager’s mouth is that I “seem a little overqualified for this position", I realize right then and there that the decision has already been rendered. Btw, sorry for rambling here.

I would also like to state that it was never my intention to bring any negativity to the board (and if I did I hope it stopped with my prior letter). I also respect the fact that you are attempting to keep this forum professional and responding to our comments, and certainly urge fellow posters (regardless of their opinions) to keep the discussion civil.

Davey: No apologies are necessary, because you are experiencing on a deeply personal level the broad effects that we are so callously and dispassionately discussing here. Yes, we HR and Compensation types do occasionally consciously harden our hearts. We HAVE to remain unemotional, logical, rational, obedient to our employers' needs and still decent caring human beings (indeed, we are frequently expected to be "experts" on human behavior) dealing with hundreds of anxious desperate candidates seeking to fill one single job opening. It tears you apart, having to say "no" hundreds of times to good people and only able to say "yes" once to the one single candidate who best matches the required criteria in a way most acceptable to senior management. And the "winner" may strike you as a horrible person, compared to many of the wonderful applicants you must reject. Being a hiring manager is a lot better than being unemployed, but it carries a heavy emotional price. So please try to cut them a little slack.

Let's hope that this discussion may shed some light that will help all of us. May God bless you and bring you the success you so richly deserve. You will prevail in the end.

"Yes, when the economy rebalances, they will either demand that you restore them to "their rightful proper level," wanting to be "made whole," or they will abandon you for another who will give them closure with fair pay. "

From everything I am reading, this economy is not going to "rebalance" for ten years or more. So that should not even be a consideration.

I am both unemployed and overqualified and wanting to work, willing to work, more than ready to come down from my former six figure salary and very, very good at what I do. And you and the people who think like you are part of the problem, not part of the solution. I have about 8-10 more working years left and a company could obtain excellent skills and background at a bargain price, but no....you'd rather encourage them to keep replacing and retraining the Gen Whatevers that come and go willy nilly, and that's when they even can be bothered to show up for work.

Rather shortsighted. You're encouraging companies to spend their money on a Kia instead of a Mercedes Benz, for the same cost.

Well, you should look at the other side of this coin. Try running a company with a bunch of inexperienced people who are just hungry to climb up a ladder. Don't you think they would leave as soon as they get a chance to do something better? In fact as a VP and Global director I found more experienced people were on par with inexperienced people when asked to do low level tasks. The inexperienced reacted with just as much resentment if not more, and they lacked the long term thinking to overcome such challenges. On the other hand, the over qualified, or experienced didn't over react or take it as the end of the world.
Your article contributes to the mentality that we are living in a disposable business community with little or no value for much of anything except stockholder satisfaction. Take a queue from what just happened to our country with that mentatilty. No one else in the world does business this way and if we do - we will loose footing, excuse me, continue to loose footing economically.

K M: both agree and demur. We also see a "U" shaped recovery. But I'm merely explaining the problem rather than endorsing it. We finally hired our first new person in years this month and that 64-year old "overqualified" techie was not required to accept a discounted pay rate.

Aimee: yes, been there, done that, thank you, and agree that experienced folks are far more durable and resiliant than the typical fresh junior; but my personal viewpoint is not accepted by many others whose behaviors I have attempted to explain... not to defend but simply to inform. We have to live in the real world the way it actually IS rather than wishfully project the ideal theoretical model. Only after facts are faced, can they be changed.

Wow, this post headline really grabbed me and I found it infinitely depressing and sad--to see this type of advice in these horrible economic times. Advising companies not to hire the "over-qualified"?

Please give the unemployed "over-qualified" a little credit. Many, many "over-qualified" 50+-year-olds have learned to completely reinvent themselves. No grudges attached.

Hiring managers, please give those who are reformulating their careers, lives and expectations to adapt to the Great Recession, the chance to work again. No matter how long we have already been in the workforce or what type of titles we have held. It's a fact, we cannot all become successful Internet entrepreneurs or motivational speakers or consultants. We need jobs.

Please read the article before you mischaracterize it as "advice"... it is a briefing on a very real status quo issue which is as true as it is distasteful. Diagnosis must precede prescription; you can't change what you don't understand. Let's use this discussion to CHANGE the bad ideas: some wonderful ideas and concepts have already appeared, so please add more!

I think you are missing an opportunity adopting this stratedgy. As you indicated there is no loyalty, but there is maturity. Candidate discussions can make a difference and benfit everyone.

Discussions open opportunities for learning, so I refuse to close my mind and instead pledge to keep questioning the status quo. Please realize that (as a parallel) the CDC doesn't create diseases or spread illness when it announces its findings; it shares relevant information to STOP the hazards. Denying the existence of toxic attitudes is futile; they cannot be extinguished until they are identified and corrected.

If anyone already mentioned it, I apologize for my redundancy: position descriptions are often not nearly as static or inflexible as they appear, except in the most rigid, beaurocratized companies; consequently, candidate qualifications will move up or down the experience and pay scale, so long as the core abilities are addressed. Admittedly, there is also more "flex" as the level of the position rises and subjectivity counts more. Still, recruiters (internal and external) would do well to deeply understand their clients, particularly the highest hiring authority and his / her talent strategy, and help the client see where the seemingly overqualified individual can bring more future value within the talent strategy framework. A final point: I can think of many examples of a client deciding to hire a seemingly "underqualified" candidate (as defined by the position description) when more appropriate candidates were available.

Craig: no, yours is a new, pertinent and useful addition that we welcome. Instead of apologizing for being highly qualified, experienced candidates might fare better if they emphasized how swiftly, efficiently and seamlessly they can produce with minimal (if any) training. (Speaking generally just as I did in the original article) they spin up to speed a lot faster, are seasoned, unflappable, not prone to panic, durable under pressure, able to supply mentorship and much more likely to make the hiring manager look good immediately than any rival candidate at the other end of the experience spectrum. Those are positive sales points that should be trumpeted, along with some kind of assurances (if possible or feasible) that they will not double-cross the enlightened employer that likewise plays straight with them.

See some of the earlier comments for similar excellent suggestions. And let's hear more from others!

Jim,

I sympathize with many of the people who have commented. I’m familiar with the strong emotions they are tapping into. (I suspect you’ve “been there, done that”, too.) This is hot and emotional.

To help cool it down: I wonder if you have knowledge of or access to any quantitative studies that tracked the behaviors of "over hires" and their rate of attrition (or avg. tenure). I wonder if this observation is really a false attribution? Hiring managers are emotional too; they want to find a rational reason they lost a good employee, and it may feel better to say the employee was never committed or just waiting for their next opportunity. Or the loss of a good employee can feel like they were lost too soon, therefore, perceived as having been there "not that long". In reality, the metrics (if there are any) may show that there is no actual difference in attrition, controlling for factors X, Y, and Z.

Perspectives like what you are presenting are sometimes hard to swallow without some hardcore "facts". (There's a fascinating story of the "blind auditions" for major philharmonic orchestras in the book "Blink" that really illustrates this tendency to deny "facts" when we’re so bought in to what we "know is true".)

jyi: The Employment Management Association might know of some studies on that topic, since they are our professional subgroup closest to the action. After having been burned almost every time I've put my hand into the fire, I find no pressing need for a longitudinal study. Mind you, I have and will continue to hire "overqualified" people, but only under certain specific circumstances, as cited above.

That said, I concur that rationalization takes place on all sides; it's why I wrote that hiring managers suspect "overqualifieds" to be ticking time bombs with built-in grievances: it may not be true, but it is perfectly plausible and gives them a CYA excuse they are happy to use. Bottom line, I'd bet there is no such research to support your hypothesis of "no difference," because it would have been trumpeted far and wide and cited by every person unhappy with my blunt statements of fact about status quo hiring attitudes. Negative inference applies.

I think there is always the potential risk for an over qualified person to leave once they find something better. But with so many unemployed these days- many are realizing that 1- they can get by on a whole lot less than what they thought and it's has a freeing effect on the soul to let go a bit. But more importantly #2- people are realizing that life is too short to spend most of your waking hours doing something you hate. They may be more willing to take a job that they are considered over-qualified for just to do something they enjoy and is fulfilling to them. It's less about the money & title than it used to be.

Gina: True, and while that applies to everyone, it may be more necessary for those who simply can't find a job paying enough to support their previous lifestyle. In an ideal world, it would never only be about money and title.

How ridiculous. Do you really think that once the inexperienced newbies gain some experience they are going to stay in the same job and accept low pay?

Of course not; if an employer does not pay people at a level roughly commensurate with their value, they will leave at the first opportunity. Who would have proposed otherwise? The only things that will keep folks on a low paying job are (a) great satisfaction with non-cash remuneration factors and/or (b) the absence of superior alternative opportunities.

A heart surgeon hired as a dental technician is more likely to leave sooner than the kid hired with a trade school certificate.

My perspective on this is that hiring the somewhat overqualified is a pretty good bargain. I recently hired someone to be our leaves and worker's comp specialist. Her background is very good, and she has spent time as a generalist and even as an HR manager for a much smaller organization. The job she came into was formless, the former incumbent had been gone for months, and we were hopelessly behind. She has created an easy to follow system, applied her skills so that our return-to-work and management of injured workers is much better, and we are now in compliance with FMLA.

I have no illusions that she will stay in this lower level job forever. I expect that we will soon move her to a generalist role in the organization. Nevertheless, hiring her really was a bargain. I couldn't have expected a new college grad to be able to put together a system and clean up this area of our HR function in so short a time. When she does move on, hopefully here in our company, I WILL be able to hire a much less experienced worker because she has created a system that the new person can follow in order to be successful.

My personal perspective is that I'd much rather have someone who is really good for a couple of years, than 5 years or a lifetime of mediocre.

Jana: Well handled. You have a good situation that permitted a mutually beneficial exchange. Count your blessings, because such win-win opportunities don't come every day.

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