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Is Being Overqualified a Disadvantage?

This is One Question we are being asked daily by the high numbers of senior executives who have found themselves on the current job market.

It is clear that being overqualified is a burning concern for the experienced job seekers out there.

For those who are spending hours preparing their application, only to receive a "thanks, but no thanks" email, they are left wanting for answers, not to mention the accompanying frustration.


By having some different insights into this question, it may help the more experienced candidates to navigate application processes more effectively, providing them with some tools to overcome objectives ahead of time and inch their resume forward in the queue.


So, we have some perspectives on this question from some carefully chosen experts in our network, each with a slightly different lens on the situation. We'll throw our two cents worth in too.


AN INTERNAL TALENT ACQUISITION VIEWPOINT:

Edan Haddock, Senior Manager - Talent & People Development

Flybuys (Loyalty Pacific)

“Overqualified candidates are quite a hot topic at the moment. Thinking back to July 2019, the job market was certainly different, at least for us at Flybuys. There were specific skill sets (Martech, Analytics, Legal) that were in high demand and we were relying heavily on talent pooling and the passive job market. What we are finding in today’s climate is that we are receiving a massive influx of applications through the more traditional channels, such as SEEK, Indeed and LinkedIn advertising.


This may seem like a recruiter’s dream! A large pool of ready-now talent to meet our needs. However, this does pose a new challenge of having huge numbers of applications to assess - often in the hundreds.

All of our roles have had at least a 40% increase in job applications.

And it is the new challenge of how to manage great talent when often you only have the one relevant role available.


I never assume a candidate is over-qualified. Working in a start-up environment, with a degree of flexibility in terms of job design, it is very important to have these conversations to understand a candidate’s motivations, and situation, before automatically assuming they are “too senior” or “too qualified” for the role. Gaining a deeper knowledge of the candidate’s skills and experience will assist you for future talent pools. The key to ensuring you manage the communications effectively is to use a modern and intuitive ATS (Livehire is great for us). The difficulty we are facing is time. I naively assumed that receiving so much interest in our opportunities, from amazing talent in the market, would mean I could fill roles faster and more efficiently. This simply isn’t the case.”


THE VIEWPOINT OF A CAREER AND JOB SEARCH COACH:

Leah Lambart, Founder

Relaunch Me

“For many professionals, the pandemic has been the first time that they have been not working, worked fewer hours or have even slowed down their working life for a very long time. For the workaholics among us, many have been forced out of their offices into the family environment and have realised what they may have been missing as a result of spending long hours in the office on an ongoing basis. Many are actually relishing in the slower pace and the time that allows them to spend with their families, or simply doing some things around the house that they haven’t had a chance to do for a very long time.


As a result, we are talking to many senior clients who have taken this time to undertake some self-assessment and determine what is most important to them going forward. We are hearing feedback from senior clients who are now looking for a less stressful role with less responsibility, less travel and fewer hours. This time with family has led to a change in values for many people and as a result, they are looking for roles that would be considered a ‘step back’ from what they were previously doing.


In addition, there are many highly qualified and top-quality candidates who have been made redundant as a result of this pandemic. They realise that positions at that level don’t come along often and that there will be far more quality senior candidates looking for work. As a result, they are prepared to take a role at a lower level and salary just to be working again, not just from a financial perspective but also from the desire to contribute and add value to an organisation. Again, for many,

their core values are not necessarily related to ‘status’ or a ‘high income’ but rather the desire to work with good people and make a positive impact.

The question is, will organisations be open to hiring candidates who have previously worked in much more senior positions due to the age-old concerns as to whether they will actually stick around. Historically, companies have always been very reluctant to recruit candidates who are over-qualified for a role, so will this change after this pandemic?


From what we are seeing in the market, we would encourage employers to appreciate that it is possible for candidates to have a change of values after a life-changing event and that this is something that should not be under-estimated.”


Please get in touch with Leah for more information on her career and job search services.


AN AGENCY RECRUITMENT VIEWPOINT:

Nicola Crocco & Lisa Canning, Directors

Talent Effect

“Being an agency, we spend our days identifying and talking to the talented individuals who are both actively looking for a new role and those that might look at the right opportunity in the future. We invest heavily in understanding the motivations and career goals of our candidates. We have noticed a strong trend in people recalibrating their outlook on career and personal balance during this pandemic. Forced to live a slower-paced life with more time for our close relationships, thinking space and taking care of our health in body and mind has made many realise that the high-powered job is not what they want. One candidate we recently worked with at General Manager level was willing to look at a job paying $100,000 less than what he had been earning so that they did not have to travel so much and could be around more for their family.


Our investment of time in understanding our candidates means that we can represent them as a whole person to our clients, versus a set of skills and experiences.  On paper, the candidate may look overqualified, but because we understand their motivations and outlook correctly, we can discuss these in detail with the client and often overcome their objections.


The biggest objection we hear to a candidate being overqualified is that they will be a ‘flight risk’ for the employer. Often, the employer’s thinking is that when the market picks up, again, the candidate will instantly look for a higher-paying role. However, when faced with this objection,

we are quick to point out the upside in loyalty and effectiveness for the organisations with the courage to see the candidate as a whole person rather than project their assumptions about flight risk upon them.

We are rapidly realising that not every candidate in the market is climbing the career ladder and constantly searching for a pay increase. This crisis is leading to a paradigm shift for many people around life priorities. The faster organisations can also make this shift in their understanding of their prospective workforce, the more opportunity for engagement with incredible talent there will be.”


PULLING THESE VIEWPOINTS TOGETHER:

Here are a few tips to help combat the “you’re overqualified” concern:

  • Be brutally honest with yourself before you apply. Would you really take the job at the salary on offer and would you really be content performing the role at its advertised level, day-in and day-out?

  • If your motivations and brutal self-honesty are still aligned to the job at hand, ensure that you are bold, clear and honest about your motivation for being interested as part of your application. Your cover letter is a good place to do this. For more tips on how to write an effective cover letter, click here.

  • Be prepared to take a screening call from a recruiter after you have submitted your application. Again, have your motivations clearly articulated ahead of time. Keep them handy as a note somewhere so that you are never caught off guard when that phone rings. You only have one chance to get your point across when it does!


IS BEING OVERQUALIFIED A DISADVANTAGE?

Is this One Question we have answered?

In short, if the honesty and clarity of a candidate’s motivations for applying can be met with an organisation’s openness to embrace them without assumption, then being overqualified may not be a disadvantage.


However, the resourcing required across internal Talent Acquisition functions to realise this synergy may pose some challenges. Their main difficulty currently seems to be time.


Please get in touch with Nicola Crocco or Lisa Canning at Talent Effect for further recruitment advice and services.

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