HR · 24 January 2019

Should you hire an overqualified employee?

It’s crucial to understand an individual’s motivations for applying
Is it a risk to employ somebody who is clearly overqualified for the role? Kate Palmer considers why the answer isn’t always that simple.

Most employers will be in agreement that when it comes to hiring new staff, they want someone who best meets the desired levels of skills and experience, however, there can often be debate over whether to select an individual who appears to be overqualified for the role.

The “stop-gap”

Perhaps the most common concern around hiring an overqualified applicant is that they may not be prepared to remain in the role for a long period of time and will be looking to leave for a more suitable position at the first opportunity.

Having overqualified individuals treat certain roles as a stop gap can be very costly for employers as it would mean extra time and money would need to be spent finding an adequate replacement.?

There is also the potential that overqualified employees could have a disruptive influence on the wider workforce, especially if they are unable to adapt to a role that involves taking orders from individuals with less experience than themselves. This could present a major problem for line managers who may have certain decisions questioned by overqualified staff, resulting in a breakdown in the chain of command and a drop in productivity.



Kate Palmer CIPD is the head of advisory at law firm Peninsula and is a member of its senior leadership team. She joined in 2009 having held a senior HR manager's role in another large company. With a specialist background in facilities management in the NHS, Kate offers a wealth of employment law experience. She's an expert negotiator - one notable case was with the NHS's trade unions over terms and conditions in the Agenda for Change pay system.

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