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Overqualified? Hire Them Anyway!

Studies suggest that job candidates with more education bring more value to the organization -- even if the job in question may not require a college degree. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017
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One of the most frustrating things that job applicants hear is that they are "overqualified" for the position for which they applied. But two recent findings should challenge the common notion among hiring managers that bringing on people who are overqualified is a recipe for high turnover.

Employers themselves are finding that more education is a plus when hiring for a position, even if the job itself didn't require a college degree in the past. A new CareerBuilder survey finds that more employers than ever now consider a college degree essential for a job, even if the job previously didn't require a candidate to have a college degree. The survey finds that 38 percent of employers have raised their educational requirements over the last five years. Forty-one percent of employers are hiring college-educated workers for positions that had been primarily held by those with high-school degrees, compared to 37 percent in 2016.

The survey of 2,300 hiring and HR managers from a variety of industries also reveals that 61 percent said they're hiring college-educated workers for positions that had been filled by high-school grads because the skills for those positions had evolved and required higher-educated labor. Fifty-six percent cited the tight job market, which made it easier to hire workers with college degrees.

"Roles across the board, even entry-level positions, are evolving and becoming more complex," says CareerBuilder Chief Human Resources Officer Rosemary Haefner. "Employers are looking for workers with a solid knowledge base and skillset that can make an impact on the business right away."

Hiring college-educated workers for jobs that didn't previously require a degree makes sense because those workers -- or ones who consider themselves overqualified for the job in question -- are generally more productive and innovative, according to a recent paper by researchers at Rice University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong that is published in the latest issue of the Academy of Management Journal.

The paper is based on two studies, one of 327 teachers and 85 supervisors at six high schools in China and the other of nearly 300 factory worker technicians.

The teachers were asked to rate themselves, on a scale of one (strongly disagree) to seven (strongly agree), whether they were overqualified for their job. Next, they were asked to respond to what extent -- on a scale of one (never) to seven (very often) -- they had engaged in "job crafting," such as introducing new approaches of their own to teaching or organizing special classroom events. The teachers' supervisors were also asked to rate them on creativity and "organizational citizenship."

The study concluded that teachers who viewed themselves as "modestly overqualified" (rating themselves five on a scale of one to seven) tended to do more job crafting than their colleagues who viewed themselves as either more overqualified or less. Teachers who tended to do more job crafting were, in turn, more likely to be highly rated by their supervisors for creativity and organizational citizenship.

The study involving factory workers consisted of two exercises: In the first, the researchers determined which workers were overqualified for their positions by having them assemble a helicopter model in a timed exercise. Next, the participants were asked to design and assemble within 30 minutes at least one toy boat patterned after a rough model that was projected on a screen. Participants were rated on how many components they used in creating the toy boats, indicating "the degree of self-driven effort for altering task boundary, i.e. task-crafting."

Workers who rated themselves as modestly overqualified for their positions used the most components in assembling their boats, outdoing their peers who were most overqualified.

The researchers concluded that workers who are "modestly overqualified" for their positions appear to bring extra creativity and helpfulness to the job.

"Recruitment managers should not turn away job applicants who are overqualified, because such individuals, if managed appropriately, may bring creativity and organizational citizenship behavior to the organization," they wrote.

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