Are they over-qualified?
When I moved into my condo, the front desk job was held by two men – one who had run a successful insurance agency before selling it and one who had been a senior civil servant running a big program. They were job-sharing, great guys, and stayed with us for many years. Residents got great service. Emergencies were handled calmly and effectively. Management got continuity. And common problems were solved rather than escalated.

A raging discussion
Right now on JobAngels, a discussion is raging about jobs for which one is ‘over-qualified’ versus what that even means. It got me thinking about how we use the ‘over-qualified’ term in business – and why a smart business woman might want an entire staff of such folks.

Now if you have ever been ‘over-qualified’ for work or a job you wanted, you know how silly that feels to you. Too often ‘over-qualified’ is a euphemism for ‘too expensive’ or ‘too old’ and other assumptions.

(And you know the definition of assume: making an ‘ass of u and me’.)

But if you actually know how to hire effectively, none of these need be true. And, like our front desk guys, you could hire people who would significantly contribute to your business immediately and long-term.

If you are in a start-up or growth stage
-you need people who can pitch in across functions and get the job done. Sometimes a sharp young person brings the right blend of knowledge and enthusiasm. But a more experienced person can add a wide range of expertise and breadth to meet your goals.

Looked at this way, ‘over-qualified’ is not even possible in most growing businesses.

Really assessing the candidate for your business
But how do you find the person who can contribute instead of the person who is just looking for a job, any job in this economy? Well, actually, the same way you would be evaluating any candidate. You need to know if an individual:

  • can do the job
  • will do the job
  • fits into your organization

“Can do” is usually the easiest to assess.
You should know what you need done and why. Those needs drive the experience, knowledge, and contacts requirements you will look for.

‘Will do’ relates to motivation and interest.
Here you assess whether what the person says and has previously demonstrated indicate a match to the work at hand. And you are going to be clear about your pay up-front so you get the best candidates you can within your budget.

‘Fit’ is tricky
It’s tricky because you want people who can succeed in your organization but you do not want to have clones or group-think. Nor do you want to get into inadvertent or overt discrimination. An easy way to think of this is to look at some of the basics of how you work. If your organization is rather hierarchical and quite organized, don’t hire folks who thrive in chaos.

Researching best predictors
When you are assessing a person, look for evidence that the person understands the needs of your organization and makes the case for what they can do for you. When you interview, ask questions which relate to their past patterns of behavior since those are the best predictors of what they will do in your job. You want to ask about what makes them interested in your organization, this job – learn whether their interests match or enhance yours.

And if you are not comfortable with your hiring and interviewing, learn how!

The psychiatric nurse story
I hired a woman who had been a psychiatric nurse for many years into a receptionist position, after a long fight with executives who were sure she would not succeed or stay. The software company had gone through receptionists so rapidly that even the temp companies were becoming unwilling to send candidates who wanted a regular job. But what I ascertained in the interviews was that she understood the realities of the receptionist role and wanted to be in a regular job like that long term. She took the job — and significantly expanded the support work she did for various departments over time.

Customers raved, staff loved her, and executives congratulated themselves for hiring someone so ‘outside the box.’

So next time before you say or think ‘over-qualified’, perhaps you might think about how much this person could contribute to your success.

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