Look Before You Label: How the “Overqualified” Market Research Candidate Could Be Right for You

Traditional wisdom has dictated that hiring managers should avoid recruiting overqualified candidates. The perception is that they may cause morale issues, they’re expensive, and they will jump ship at the first suitable opportunity that presents itself.

But smart hiring decisions today are based on keen evaluation of skills and deep understanding of motivations – not labels. The significant and continuous change that technology introduces into the market research industry heightens the need to understand the fundamental reasons why a candidate bears that “overqualified” label.

Assumption VS. Reality

Hiring managers have historically steered away from overqualified candidates due to such presumed risk factors as:

  • They’ll quickly get bored in their roles, which will hamper productivity and cause them to leave.
  • They won’t be motivated and, as a result, they will underperform.

Take a closer look at the candidate’s track record, and ask key questions about their previous career progression and motivations for making this career move. You may find that it’s to your advantage to hire a market research candidate who has shown resiliency and continuous learning in such a fast-changing industry.

For example, if the candidate’s past work accomplishments show evidence of embracing new technologies and developing methodologies in line with the digital revolution, there is good reason to believe they continue to innovate and adapt.

Your team may then reap the benefit of having an adept user of analytical technology, as well as the ability to mentor younger teammates, and give them the benefit of a long-term perspective when it comes to managing change.

The Benefits Could Outweigh the Risks

When making hiring decisions, visionary leaders set their eyes on the future, rather than simply addressing immediate needs. Before you reject a candidate as overqualified:

  • Get to know them. There may be ways you can make good use of their “extra” experience. If they have deep connections within the industry, you may open the pipeline to new talent or business opportunities.
  • Think beyond the job on the table. Ask yourself whether there is room to expand the role and make use of the unique skill set the candidate offers. Envision the contribution they can make to the larger organization, over the longer term. They may be able to effectively mentor others or challenge their peers to exceed expectations.
  • Look at the overall return on investment: Hiring overqualified individuals may help you achieve higher productivity, grow and surpass goals more quickly than you had planned. Getting them up to speed may happen more rapidly than less experienced candidates.

How to Approach the Offer

When you consider hiring an overqualified candidate:

  • Be clear with yourself, the new hire and the rest of the organization about what the job entails. Have a set plan for the future. Think and discuss beyond the initial stage, when a person may be temporarily underutilized. Watch for possible situations where others, such as their immediate supervisors, may feel threatened or unable to effectively manage them.
  • Pay what they are worth. If a candidate is as strong as you think, you’re likely to be competing with other employers for them. However, have a frank conversation and share relevant information about your budget and market rates for their particular skill set. Be clear about their future prospects in terms of promotion and compensation so they fully understand what they’re getting into. Other motivations, as well as employee benefits and non-cash rewards, may make your position attractive to them within the salary range you are able to offer.

Regardless of the level of skills, experience and expertise offered by candidates, it’s critical to make the right hiring decision the first time around. If you need additional perspective and guidance in shaping your successful recruitment strategy, read our related posts or contact the experts at O’Connell Group today.