University Study Supports Overqualified Job Candidates


Unemployed job seekers have found that during this time of double-digit unemployment, the number of jobs available are limited. But even for those positions which happen to be available, candidates have discovered that some companies aren’t interested in hiring people they believe are overqualified for a particular opening.

USC Study

Do overqualified job seekers have a prayer?

That thinking is wrong according to Dr. Anthony Nyberg, a researcher who conducted a study for the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. Nyberg contends that thinking “too smart” workers would grow bored and quit a job they’re clearly overqualified for is simply a false notion. Nyberg’s study was co-authored with Dr. Mark Matarich of St. Ambrose University and Dr. Greg Reilly of the University of Connecticut.[1]

“A manager trying to fill a job that demands less-than-top-level smarts should never reject a candidate out of hand just because the applicant’s score on the company’s intelligence tests labels him or her as smarter than the job requires,” said Nyberg, an assistant professor of management and an expert in strategic human resources. “If anything, our research suggests that such a candidate could be expected to stay longer and perform better than an applicant whose scores make him supposedly a better fit.”

Court Discrimination?

The researchers noted that even the US court system supports companies who refuse to hire workers who are overqualified, giving them carte blanche to discriminate. Such court action flies in the face of the usual worker rights whereby employees cannot be discriminated against based on age, race, ethnicity or religion.

Nyberg analyzed more than 5,000 adults’ labor-force behavior over a 25-year period in a nationwide U.S. sample to arrive at his conclusions. The professor culled data obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

Ideal Workers

Job seekers who appear to be overqualified may prove to be ideal workers according to Nyberg. Some employees prefer to work for a company whose values match their own or are looking for a less stressful position. Others simply need a paycheck and would happily take the job. Nyberg says that hiring managers should investigate the candidate’s rationale for wanting a job instead of dismissing overqualified candidates immediately.

If you’re looking for work and are overqualified for a particular position there are some steps you can take to ensure that you get at least a chance to be interviewed.

Dr. Randall S. Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers emphasizes the importance of networking as a way for people to get their foot in the door. A recommended candidate carries much weight and can offset possible misgivings by hiring authorities.[2]

You may also want to consider focusing on career accomplishments and skills rather than on job titles. Also, show employers your loyalty and minimize your salary requirements. We’re in a new day of hiring; you need to be aware of the market and how to work with what you have.


[1] Managers Have Wrong Assumptions About Overqualified Job Candidates

[2] Fighting the Overqualified Label: 10 Tactics for a Successful Job-Search

Photo Credit: Fallenangel


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Categories: Career Planning