19 November 2009


Sincere question, not rhetorical.

How and when and, for goodness’ sake, why did “overqualified” become a reason to turn someone away from employment?

This is starting to bother me a lot. I mean, I help run a Masters program, and am advisor on a major grant to create graduate opportunities for Hispanics, am the lead on one undergraduate research program and participate in another.

But I have my doubts. Reading things like this or this... don’t help.

The concept of “overqualified” just gnaws away at the whole reason for those programs. Not just ours, but nationally. Internationally.

How are you going to create a technically skilled work force in a society when there’s a threat that that very training can be held against them?

I understand that when there are too many applications too read, you’ve got to cut something somewhere. But it seems to me that, “Oh, they’ll just leave when the economy is better” is short-sighted. This is a fantastic opportunity to get amazingly smart people in your company. Imagine the energy and talent a hiring business could recruit today if it said, “nobody is overqualified.” Even if they do leave, you’ll probably have a better company at the end than when you started.

Somehow, I can’t help but think that what’s really leading to the concept of “overqualified” is that an employer doesn’t want an employee smarter than they are. Too likely to upset delicate workplace power relationships. Or something.

I clearly don’t get it.


BunchberryFern said...

Three possibilities:

Your suggestion. Employers feel insecure.

Chris Atherton's suggestion - overqualified people are morons. (apologies to Chris, I'm taking her out of context. But employers may feel that, as well as showing diligence and intelligence, higher qualifications imply a certain mindset.)

Employers have experienced unhappy overqualified staff who don't fit in and leave.

And I suspect I could come up with a dozen more. Some of them as unfair as the situation with the insecure employer. Some of them probably a relatively justifiable take on the other possibilities.

One thing I've seen is a misplaced sense of entitlement. I am interested in hard work, dedication, intellectual rigour - but rarely a qualification in itself.

But this is often what is stressed. 'Piece of paper x' isn't a good USP. The story of how you got there and what you plan to do with it might be.

Anonymous said...

Well, sometimes it's just code for "We don't want to pay that much."

Antonia - Beauty Health Finance and Green Issues Editor said...

from my past experiences working at a UK University, I do agree that Employers feel insecure.

I applied for one job and successful went to Interview, unfortunately, the person who got the job had been working in the field of disability and dyslexia for about 7 yeasr, so I didn't get the job, understandably as I am a Rookie.

I then applied for another job and this time, I added my professional memberships to the application form, since then I haven't been able to get an interview at the same place. It's hard to know whether to really beef up your CV and job application or whether to leave things off it in case you are discriminated against in one way or the other.

From my observations in the UK job market anyway, they prefer to give the job to people who will be online chatting on Instant messenger, constantly on facebook, or drinking cups of tea.

People who are serious about work are sitting down twiddling their thumbs over here, while the underqualified are raking it in. it's quite ironic.

Additionally, before I went to University I was earning approximately £19,000-£20,000. These days Graduates are starting on £20,000. Is this some kind of joke?

Antonia - Beauty Health Finance and Green Issues Editor said...

I think it's also code for you don't fit our image or organisational culture and we don't want you.

Of course, overqualified sounds like a better excuse.