You are in the middle of a zoom call meeting when you notice a mail from the zonal business head.
You open it up. It has a single line in it. "Hi, Any update on this?"
You are familiar with trail mail. You had to give an update on the hiring status. However, since last night you haven't yet been able to figure out whether you should hire the 2 candidates who were recently interviewed.
The business team was pretty happy with both of these candidates and has asked you to finalize the offers post salary negotiation. Little do they realize that releasing the offers and getting them to join is the easiest of tasks in this context. The tricky part is making them stay.
You open the resume of these candidates and also open the Job Description in parallel to make a summary of the specifications.
The 1st candidate fits in easily. Though his salary expectations are a bit on the higher side, you know that you'll be able to pitch in other benefits to him to offset the gap. The guy is also from the same industry and has already been in a similar role previously.
But here's the issue: He is overqualified.
Bringing in someone who has been a Sr. Manager for 3 years to fill in a position of a Manager might not seem like an issue to the business team, but you know the issues that might crop up. The chances of this guy staying around for a prolonged duration with your firm are as good as the chances of global warming reversing. While some people claim that it can happen, you've seen this movie before and know that it doesn't have a happy ending.
Covid has induced a scenario where loads of people have lost their jobs. All of them are now desperate to get another. However, when one is desperate, one generally only thinks about eliminating the short-term threat.
Despite knowing that he is overqualified for the role, the candidate has applied to your job opening because he is desperate to get a job. He was sitting jobless and idle for the past quarter and his patience was now being tested. Eventually, he started applying to any relevant job opening.
He is a brilliant resource for your job opening but you doubt whether, at the first glimpse of a senior-level opening elsewhere, he will apply and move on. Simply put, the resource is overqualified.
The position is hot and has already been open for a long time. The pressure, therefore, is high for you to close it at the earliest. So, what do you do?
While every HR guy might have his/her answer to this, none of those answers will come without pondering over three primary questions:
A. Overqualified? Are you Sure?
- Jill has an MBA and 25 years of work experience. She has now applied for the role of Senior Manager in the Finance team. Is she overqualified?
- Out of Jill’s 25 years of professional career, she was an IT helpdesk assistant for 18 of those years. Is she still overqualified?
- The MBA that Jill has specialized in is Human Resources (HR). Is she still overqualified?
- She worked for two regional government offices for 23 years and has just moved to a corporate stint 2 years back. Is she still overqualified?
Did you notice what happened in the above example? With the advent of additional information, Jill’s profile which initially felt like something just what the doctor ordered for that role now feels miles apart. While Jill has a lot of experience, she is barely qualified to even apply for this position. And thus, defining whether the candidate is over-experienced or over-qualified becomes of utmost importance.
B. What’s the Core Motive
You know that the candidate is applying to a position lower than what he probably should be, but here’s the thing...the candidate knows this. Therefore, it becomes imperative for you to know what is driving this candidate?
Is it sheer desperation or is there a logical motive behind this desire to switch? You need to know the candidate's vision of his/her career ladder and how this job fits into his journey.
Once you do get an answer to the candidate’s core motive, you need to match those with the possibilities that this role will bring for this candidate.
C. Is the role scalable?
Write not just the candidate’s motive but the career ladder for this role. At times the overqualified candidates apply not for what the role has to offer but for what the role may shape up to in the future. If the candidate is talented, try and assess if you can create a fast-track growth path for the resource. You can even reduce the minimum tenure in the organization that such employees can get a promotion in.
Once the core motive of the candidate and the scalability of the role is assessed, create a Pros & Cons list of hiring this resource. At a generic level, this is how they should look like:
- A quick learner and is largely market-ready. This can become a crucial parameter if the role is for a sales profile where early inroads and success can make or break the entire team
- An asset as a mentor to other resources within the team
- Tomorrow’s potential future leaders and one of the best bets for the team at a marginalised cost
Finally, let’s address the elephant in the room (read ‘blog’).
- The compensation offered can be challenging and despite taking the job offer, the candidate uses the role as a stop-gap.
- Age trumps the designation
Many times, senior folks struggle taking directions from junior folks who are their managers. I have personally encountered this situation twice. Where the guy who is at the lower designation has more years of work experience but simply refuses to take direct orders from the immediate reporting manager just because he/she is younger than him/her.
Often the hiring managers have had major reservations in their minds regarding hiring an overqualified resource. Largely because of the inclusion of attrition targets in their goal sheets. They feel that the employee is simply using this opportunity as a stalking horse.
In fact, as per Berrin Erdogan, professor of management at Portland State University: “The assumption is that the person will be bored and not motivated, so they will underperform or leave.” In reality, however, these risks are largely perceived than being the actual concern.
As per her, “People don’t stay or leave a company because of their skills. They stay or leave because of working conditions” and thus empty threats. Is the risk worth taking - is a question that every HR should answer based on its company’s philosophy.
More often than not in scenarios like these, we tend to operate via confirmation bias where we interpret and favour the information in a way that reinforces our prior beliefs or values. As HR, we need to ensure that isn’t the case.
On a personal note, my belief is to be open to betting on the dark horse and take the plunge. Having faith in judging the candidate fairly and assessing what skills they will bring to the table without any prejudice might be an old school way of doing things but it still works wonders.
Innovation and disruption can take place only if we think differently, experiment and go over and beyond.
What do you feel should be an HR’s stance in a scenario like this? Do comment in the comment section below.