Slinger's Thoughts

January 10, 2011

Dear Employers, Please explain to me how someone can be “overqualified.”

Filed under: SharePoint — slingeronline @ 8:45 am

Note: I had to rewrite this after I had calmed down a bit.

A friend of mine has been looking for work for over a year now. The last offer that she was turned away from had the same story as many of the others. “We are sorry, but you are overqualified.” I must admit that I’m a little bit baffled by this.  I can understand how someone can be “underqualified” but I’m not sure how “overqualified” can be a negative.  Imagine if we applied this concept of overqualified to a purchase of something like software. The software does everything that you need it to do.  The pricing is less than you were expecting to have to pay initially.  You don’t buy the software however because it has features that you would not use, so instead you go with a competitor’s product that costs more, and does almost everything you need it to do, except for one or two crucial things.  Brand Loyalty notwithstanding, this is an example of poor judgment.

First a little bit of history.  My friend is one of 27 people worldwide who actually has a certification to do what she does. The list of people who have this certification is here.  In the area where we live, there are four others. So the overwhelming pool of certified users in the field that my friend works in is a whopping five people.  I don’t know how many people use this product in the area, but I can assure you that unless they have one of those other four people on their staff, their users are not certified.

If you hire a contractor to come into your home to repair something, you would want to know that they actually know what they are doing. At least I hope you would. You would want to see his qualifications and certifications. If you are a hiring manager and you are given an option between two people who have roughly the same qualifications but only one is certified, which one do you pick?  Well, obviously you pick the one who isn’t certified, because that person didn’t waste any of their own personal time trying to earn some recognition, and proof of knowledge of the product, but has launched right into reinforcing their own bad habits and perpetuating them throughout your company and eventually into the product that your clients receive. (I’m suddenly reminded of the Pointy Haired Boss from the Dilbert comics.)

Since I’m a SharePoint geek let’s apply this logic to SharePoint.  Your company is hiring a SharePoint Administrator. You have a choice between two employees to be a SharePoint Administrator. One has an MCTS and attended a training class from MindSharp or SharePoint911. The other one has read the book, “The Moron’s Complete Compendium Guide to Administering SharePoint in 3,487 easy steps.” Choice is pretty easy then isn’t it? All other things being equal, you obviously hire the guy with the book because the one with the MCTS is “overqualified.”

I think that there should be some basic common sense that hiring managers apply towards the candidates for positions that they are offering. The first thing is to completely throw out the concept of “overqualified” because there is no such thing.  I want someone to prove to me how someone can be “overqualified.” I know how to prove that someone is underqualified. If they do not have enough experience, if they don’t have a certification, if they can’t prove knowledge of the product or process, etc. As a matter of fact, I wrote a blog post that was semi related not too long ago. Read about it here.

If you are one of the people who has ever used “overqualified” as an excuse not to hire somebody, I want you to think about it very carefully. Put yourself in that person’s shoes. How absurd does it sound when you hear that you are overqualified for a position? Now imagine how you look to the person that you just told was overqualified for the position you are trying to fill. By telling someone that they are overqualified for a position, you just told them that you don’t care about the quality of your product or the reputation of your company. You are willing to settle for something that may not be as good, but costs just as much or more.  Maybe it’s just me, but as soon as someone told me I was “overqualified” for a position with their company, I would instantly lose all respect for the company and any thoughts of working for them have gone completely out the window.  If they don’t value the employees who are willing to work for them, the must not have a very high self esteem, or faith in themselves.  There is also a good possibility that the company won’t be around much longer because they have this bad habit of letting talented people slip past them because they are “overqualified.”

Now I can see certain examples of where “overqualified” would fit, but they are rare. A Neurosurgeon will not apply for a job as a receptionist, and if they did, then either their qualifications are invalid, or there is another reason they are interested in the position.  I wouldn’t turn them down outright personally, but would want to know why they were interested in the position first.

The answer is simple. If you are an employer, and someone has applied for an open position within your organization, there really are only two options; qualified, and not qualified. If they are not qualified, then you cannot be faulted for not choosing to hire them. If they are qualified, then make them an offer.  If someone in your organization states anything to the effect of “overqualified” then slap them.

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