When Your Employees Are too Good for You, Literally


It’s a rough job market out there—even for the overqualified. Dan Whiteford, a former MF Global employee who raked in $70,000 annually, recently tried to land a cashier job at Target and an assembly line gig at Chrysler, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Chances are you may find more than one overqualified candidate in your pool of potential hires. But is taking a chance on someone who is overly-skilled for the job you’re offering a win for the company?

Tracy Sinclair, vice president of marketing for staffing firm Aquent, said overqualified candidates have become the new norm in the economic recovery, with unemployment at 8.1% in April, according to the Department of Labor.

“I get a huge range of candidates,” Sinclair said. “If you have been out of work for awhile, you will cast a really wide net and apply for a lot of different types of roles.”

Taking on someone who is more-than-skilled for your job or even company has its pros and cons, Sinclair said. Depending on the type of company you have, and the size and scope of your staff, it can be used to your advantage.

First of all, you are likely getting great value for the worker, considering you are paying him or her within your means. Set a budget level for that job, and stick to it, she said.

“You may get better and higher-level work for that money,” Sinclair said.

Also, if you have a staff of more junior workers, having someone with a lot of experience can help to teach, train and mentor your employees.

“There is an overall benefit to the company in that sense,” she said. “Also, they typically need less oversight and management, so you won’t have to hold this person’s hand as much. They will know how to hit the ground running.”

Beth Gilfeather, CEO of Seven Step Recruiting, said never to turn away an applicant because he or she is over-skilled. More experience is always a good thing, and can likely bring value to your small business.

But make sure the terms of the position and pay scale are clear before bringing them on board.

If they understand the trade-off, then hire them,” Gilfeather stated by email. “If they say they will accept it, but are still making a push for more money, be wary.”

Bringing in an over-skilled worker may not be the best move in the long-run, however, because he or she may soon be bored with the work they are doing.

This can take a toll on that person’s productivity and morale, Sinclair said, and create a potentially toxic environment for the rest of your staff.

“Unless there is room for a person to grow and get new skills, they will be bored,” she said. “From a morale standpoint, that really spreads. Human nature shows if you are not being challenged, you may not be happy.”

Gilfeather also said to discuss with this person their desire to actually stay with your company. Many will take a pay-cut or lower ranking job and continue their search.

“Make sure this isn’t a short-term band-aid,” she said.

The best way to bring in someone with more skills than necessary for a permanent position in your company may be to consider that person for a consulting or temporary job.

“You can bring in people with cutting-edge skills for three, six or nine  months and they can teach your permanent employees,” Sinclair said.“It’s not  something that most companies have in-house knowledge for.”