There Is No Such Thing As “Over-Qualified”

I was in the bathroom yesterday and as usual I got some of my best thinking done—there isn’t a whole lot more you can do in there. For many years I have been disgusted by the propensity of employers to reject better than average people because they are “over-qualified”. I have known from the moment I heard the term that it was a complete load but not until yesterday was I able to put into words that others can understand why it is a load.

First of all lets examine what it is. When an employer says that someone is over-qualified it means that the applicant has more skills/abilities/education/etc. than the job requires that is, the job is basically beneath them. But, why would an employer turn away someone who is obviously able to do the job very well? The short answer is that they are afraid that the applicant would leave—sticking them with the duty and expense of finding yet another person for the position—due to boredom, a better job, or some other reason that they would not have to worry about with a lesser applicant.

So far it makes sense so let’s get to the point. It is nevertheless a load because if that person were inundated with job offers from better places then surely they would not be here applying for a job beneath them. If that person were so easily bored with this job then surely there are other menial jobs that are less boring. Basically my point is that there are two main reasons that someone would apply for a job that they are over-qualified for.

First is that they are having trouble finding a more appropriate job. Perhaps there are none in that town or perhaps the few that there are, are already filled. In any case, if they are unable to find a better job than this, then they are not likely to find one in the near future and the cost-benefit ratio is in the employers favor to hire them because even if they do leave in a year or two, the performance and other advantages they would bring far outweigh having to hire someone else later.

Second, the applicant may be applying to a job that others perceive as beneath them because they themselves do not believe it is. They may be applying because they enjoy that work. For example, a person with a medical license might apply for a job as a line cook because they love cooking and they do not have much experience in that. Others would see it as menial but the doctor sees it as fun. Again, in this case there is ample reason to hire them.

In summary there is no such thing as “over-qualified” it is always in the best interests of the employer to hire the best possible person for the task. I hope you keep that in mind the next time someone smarter than you applies for a job.

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