Overqualified for job could be most qualified

Meet Ciro, TPSO’s new bomb-detection dog
January 18, 2011
Thursday, Jan. 20
January 20, 2011
Meet Ciro, TPSO’s new bomb-detection dog
January 18, 2011
Thursday, Jan. 20
January 20, 2011

One sure way not to secure employment is to not have the qualifications needed to match a job description. Another way is to have more than the qualifications needed to match a job description.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 15 million Americans are still looking for work and admits that number does not include those that have given up their search since what some have started calling the Great Recession began in 2008.

Of the registered unemployed, 10 percent are adult men and 8.4 percent are adult women. Hires actually improved for teenagers at the end of 2010 with 24.6 percent of those under 18 not working and representing their part of the overall 9.8 percent unemployment level.

A Gallup Poll survey found that of the unemployed, 23.7 percent have completed some college, 12.9 percent are college graduates and 8.9 percent have completed postgraduate work.

Among each category of worker, regardless of if they are blue collar or white collar, the ones that have expressed the greatest frustration in getting back on the job are those that have been told they are overqualified for a given position.

According to employment specialists, employers might place the tag of overqualified on a candidate for any number of reasons. They might feel that the job would become frustrating to an individual and not offer enough of a challenge, the pay scale might not match what the applicant has earned in the past, although it is against federal discrimination laws the employer might use the term overqualified to eliminate candidates they feel are too old, and “let’s face it,” said more than one employment advisor who did not want to be associated with the comment by name, “[employers] say that just trying to get rid of them.”

Employment observers have noted that salaries have shifted dramatically in various markets to the degree that many jobs today pay at least 20 to 25 percent less than they did a decade ago. This makes salary history another element on which the overqualified tag might be placed.

Lafourche Parish Councilman Rodney Doucet has been among those who experienced the frustration of being told he was overqualified. Doucet had been working as a master electrician offshore when the company he contracted with decided to make changes.

The company required those wanting to keep their jobs to take proficiency tests. From those passing the exam applicants were told interviews would be offered.

“I took the test but never got called for an interview. I couldn’t believe that I had not passed the test,” Doucet said.

Through a friend, Doucet learned that he had passed the proficiency exam, but was not called for an interview. When Doucet asked about it, he was told that company decision makers decided he was overqualified and that the new job would have paid less money than he had been making previously. “I would have taken it,” he said, noting that salary was not the issue for him.

“They said I was overqualified. Maybe age had something to do with it, because this young pistol they hired [after dropping the pay scale by $18,000 and accepting fewer job skills than Doucet possessed] was 19 or 22 or something. They didn’t even give me an opportunity for an interview. They could have told me what they wanted up front,” he said.

The experienced electrician, who now manages an electrical supply house, confirmed that not getting the job was not the issue for him. It was the manner in which the situation was handled and the fact that he was not granted an opportunity to try and sell himself that was at issue.

Trying to get rid of the so-called overqualified candidate because one might be afraid the candidate would not like the pay or be satisfied with the work could be a big mistake based on the findings of employment service professionals.

“We do get a lot of that,” said Kim Cancienne, branch manager for Manpower in Houma. “In this market there are a lot of people who are overqualified but will take a lesser job to be employed. The problem is that employers don’t feel it is going to be the long-term solution for them. So they say, ‘overqualified.’”

Cancienne confirmed that studies have found so-called overqualified employees to generally be more loyal and dedicated to the position, have fewer absences and produce at a higher level than those with less experience.

A report in the Harvard Business Review suggested that some employers might be threatened by the skills and experience a new hire brings to the table, rather than welcoming those abilities and the working knowledge that comes with them n and considers doing so a mistake.

Careerbuilder.com responded to questions regarding the overqualified by stating that there is a dilemma that employers face. “While you certainly want to be wary of someone who ‘will just take anything’ to make ends meet (not that you don’t sympathize), you could also be doing yourself a disservice by dismissing an overqualified worker outright n and miss the opportunity to score major talent for your organization,” stated an unidentified website representative in a written statement.

Employment specialists said that experience as well as length of time on a job, and even academic accomplishments all play into determining if one is considered overqualified. In some markets job seekers have even been told to dumb-down their resumes so as to increase their opportunities.

“When [the employer] tells me a person is overqualified, we try to turn that into a positive,” Cancienne said. “We say, ‘If you can get someone at the price you want to pay with the experience that they bring to the table it would be ridiculous not to take advantage of that experience.”

The Harvard Business Review report stated that employers should be honest with applicants about their concerns and allow those persons an opportunity to address them. Researchers behind the report also said that highly qualified people require less training and are able to work independently sooner than less experienced candidates.

Some employment specialists have gone so far as to say that employers are often caught up in their own bias, fail to consider an applicants’ transferable skills, or are unwilling to address their own weaknesses that a strong applicant might expose by example.

“It has been my experience that the fears employers have of someone not being committed to the job because it is [beneath their qualifications] usually does not happen. But that goes for anybody at any level. You can hire an entry-level person and if they can go down the street for a dollar more an hour chances are they are going to leave you and take the job. That’s an argument that can be made but it can be related to a qualified as well as an unqualified person,” Cancienne said. “[Employers] should definitely take advantage of the things that make a person overqualified.”