What lies behind us and
what lies before us are tiny matters
compared to what lies within us.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
There is an ongoing debate in the area of employee recruitment whether to hire employees whose qualifications are more than the immediate and minimum requirement of the job or to hire those who have just the right requirement for the job. The question raised by managers is whether it is advantageous to the organization in the long run or not? Does this issue depend on the nature of the job and the organization?
Like a coin, this issue has two sides to it. On the side of hiring beyond the minimum requirement, various advantages on the part of the individual and the organization can be seen. There’s the issue of saving on costs of staff development since the employees’ education and experience surpass the needed job requirement. On the other side, there’s the issue of quick turnover, low job satisfaction, and indifferent attitude towards the job.
According to Ivancevich and Matteson (1999), “job requirements refer to education, experience, licenses, and other personal characteristics that are expected on an individual if he’s to perform the job content. In recent years, the idea has emerged that job requirements should also identify skills, abilities, knowledge, and other personal characteristics required to perform the job content in the particular setting.”
THE ONGOING DEBATE
Is selecting and hiring employees whose qualifications are more than the minimum requirement of the job advantageous to the organization?
YES. It is advantageous on the part of the organization to select and hire employees who are more qualified in terms of their education, experiences, and skill competencies. This management strategy is more effective in the long run in terms of quality, productivity, efficiency, satisfaction, adaptiveness, and development of the organization.
Ivancevich and Matteson (1999) identified the following individual variables that influence work behavior: demographic factors, abilities and skills, perception, attitudes, and personality. They further added that “to understand individual differences, a manager must :
1) observe and recognize the differences;
2) study relationships between variables that influence individual behavior; and
3) discover relationships”.
On the basis of these variables, a manager will be in a better position to make decisions if s/he knows how these variables relate to one another and to other factors such as attitudes, perceptions, and mental abilities of the employees.
In a study conducted by the Center for Workforce Preparation in 2002, result shows that skill mismatches among incumbent employees will grow over the next two years, as 13 percent of the respondent managers feel that the skills possessed by their current employees will not meet the needs of their jobs in two years time. Job description is not constant. It changes depending on the direction of the company. An encoder today may need to re-tool as a programmer in the future. Results of the survey also show that the reason for the high rate of turnover is employees constantly look for “better job opportunity or pay.”
According to Joanne Murray, Director of the Center for Work and Service at Wellesley College, in an interview with Will Kilburn for the Monster, the old rules were that if a manager hired somebody who was overqualified, s/he will not be satisfied with the work and will leave quickly or will ask for a promotion before the management is ready to give him/her one, will want more money, and will be resentful and problem employee is just a myth. Murray further added that there is really no data to prove that people who go for positions for which they are overqualified leave with any greater frequency than people who are normally qualified (http://management.monster.com/articles/overqualified).
However, according to Dr. Asher Meir, Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, (http://www.besr.org/ethicist/overqualified.html) there are basically three main reasons why employers are often reluctant to hire overqualified individuals:
1. Commitment. Employees who are overqualified have the tendency to view their positions as merely was stations to something better; they generally lack the commitment of someone who plans to hold the position for a long time;
2. Morale. Overqualified employees have the tendency to be more frustrated or resentful which will be detrimental to the work performance in the long run.
3. Workplace relations. Employees who are overqualified may find it difficult to establish effective teamwork with others who are much less qualified. Such a worker may have difficulty in taking orders from a supervisor whose credentials s/he does not esteem.
One of the main reasons that cost per hire shoots up is the hiring of overqualified candidates. According to Rajaram Agrawal, managing director of recruiting firm TalentAhead India, it is common for organizations to get swayed by degrees and work experiences without actually checking whether the candidate fits in organizational context. Agrawal further added that sometimes organizations lose a good candidate who asks but does not get the desired salary. S/he joins the company for a short time but is always on the look out for another job with better pay. According to Aditi Malik, global HR head of Mphasis, managers are often impressed with degrees and qualifications and often hire people who are more qualified for the position. Result of which is higher cost per hire as well as disproportionate investment on retention. However, Malik pointed out that recruitment is a very strategic area and an under investment in this area will have an impact on the organization (http://www.expressitpeople.com/20030602/cover.shtml).
A study on the effects of over education on productivity was conducted by Felix Buchel (2000) in Germany. Results of the study showed that in Germany, “over education employees with low-skill job (where almost all of overeducated workers are to be found) tend to be more productive than their correctly allocated colleagues”. This is consistent with Thurow’s job competition model as cited by Buchel (2000) which says that “better educated people are expected to be more productive”.
Frankie Picasso, an Entrepreneur and Customer Service Expert, argued that it is a strategic move to hire an overqualified applicant for a position since s/he comes with the knowledge, expertise, and advice for an affordable price. This person has a lot to offer to the organization even if it is for a limited time. A manager can maximize the potentials of overqualified employees by having them implement new ideas and strategies that will proper the organization forward. They can also mentor other staff so that whatever knowledge they have when they came in will become an enterprise property when they leave. Picasso referred to this as like winning a lottery. Picasso further added that thinking in the short term and wondering when the person will look for a better opportunity somewhere else is taking a negative view of the situation. Picasso advised that management should try putting a positive outlook and focus on all the improvements and implementations that s/he can do for the organization (http://www.newhrjobs.com/career-tools/35128.php).
A study conducted on the quality of work in Italy (2002), shows that many lower-educated workers perceived that they do not learn on the job compare to the workers with degree http://www.eurofound.eu.int/publications/files/EF05116EN.pdf. This attitude towards training and work perspectives can be detrimental to the organization in the long run. According to Ivancevich and Matteson (1999), “self efficacy relates to personal beliefs regarding competencies and abilities. Specifically, it refers to one’s belief in one’s ability to successfully complete a task. Individuals with a high degree of self-efficacy firmly believe in their performance capabilities”.
Self-efficacy has great impact and implications on human resource management. Gist (1987) suggests that the concept of self-efficacy has many theoretical and practical implications such as important relationships between feelings of self-efficacy and performance appraisal, goal setting, and the use of incentives.
According to Frank Schoff (1998), recruitment specialist, overqualified employees may cause managers to question the effectiveness of the person in a lower level assignment. Managers usually perceive an overqualified employee as someone who does not respond well to supervision by another person whose qualification is below them.
To conclude this paper, Dennise Kersten of USA Today offered some questions for reflection to employees whose qualifications are overqualified for the jobs they are applying for: “Take the employer’s concerns seriously. Before you try to sway them, evaluate your situation and goals to determine whether these fears are legitimate. Will the type of work captivate your interest? Would you treat co-workers as peers? Is a lower salary going to satisfy you, at least temporarily?”(http://www.usatoday.com/money/jobcenter/jobhunt/careerpath/2002-11-12-overqualified_x.htm).
Regardless of qualifications, job performance is highly influenced by the organization’s reward system. Organizations then must continue to strive to develop an effective reward system to encourage the best performers to remain within the organization. Ivancevich and Matteson (1999) identified the following factors to be associated with job satisfaction: pay, work itself, promotion opportunities, supervision, co-workers, working conditions, and job security. If employees have good attitude about their jobs, they are more likely to stay regardless of whether they are overqualified or not.
Going back to the quote of Oliver Wendell Holmes, what really matters is what lies within a person. In the end, it will still be the attitude of an individual that will define his/her performance at work regardless of his qualifications.
Buchel, F. 2000. The Effects of Overeducation on Productivity in Germany – The Firm’s Viewpoint, Max Plant Institute for Human Development and Technical University, Berlin ftp://repec.iza.org/RePEc/Discussionpaper/dp216.pdf
Gist, M. 1987. Self-Efficay: Implications for Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Managemetn. Academy of Management Review
Ivancevich, J. ; Matteson, M. 1999. Organizational Behavior and Management. 5ht ed. McGraw-Hill. Singapore
Kersten, D. 2002. Skirt the ‘overqualified stamp. http://www.usatoday.com/money/jobcenter/jobhunt/careerpath/2002-11-12-overqualified_x.htm
Picasso, F. Hiring the OverQualified Employee or Mining for Gold http://www.newhrjobs.com/career-tools/35128.php
Schoff, F. 1998 Is “overqualified” overused? http://www.networkworld.com/newsletters/careers/0427car2.html
Sudipta, D. 2003. How to identify the common hiring blind spots. Mumbai. http://www.expressitpeople.com/20030602/cover.shtml