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What do employers think about overeducated job seekers?
Job seekers rarely consider the commitment a company makes when hiring somebody. Training, health benefits, salary, office space, technology, equipment -- these are investments companies make in a new hire, along with the hope that their newest employee will be a return on their investment.
Hiring managers often see a red flag when an overeducated job seeker applies for a position. While the job seeker sees this as an advantage -- surely he is more qualified than most applicants -- hiring managers see him as a flight risk, or somebody who won't stay at the company long before finding a better opportunity.
If you're overqualified, how can you combat this stereotype and land the job?
Why it's a problem
A certain liability comes along with overeducated job seekers, which weighs against the education advantages they have over other job seekers. "The problem may not be the over-education," says Marcia LaReau, president of career-services company Forward Motion LLC. "The question that generally comes up is, 'Is this person looking for something better, and will they leave if/when it comes along?'"
Helen Cortez, human resources manager for Next Day Flyers, agrees. "Often when I read through résumés, I come across candidates who at first glance appear to be overqualified and overeducated for the openings. As a company, we may be a bit hesitant to bring in these individuals. The concern is longevity. There is an expense tied with bringing new team members on board, and there is also an adjustment by the team they work with. That's not to say we don't bring in overqualified candidates, because we have, and we feel very fortunate to have these individuals on our team."
Why it might not be a problem
Employers are just as aware of the tough economy as job seekers. They know that many overqualified people are willing to take any to get a paycheck, but they still need to make smart business decisions. Make the choice easy by marketing your qualifications as an added perk.
"The company wants the best employees but also wants assurance that these workers will stick around," says Amber Dixon, marketing director of Intermountain Financial Group LLC. "They are aware that the individual may not stay with the company once the economy improves, but they can benefit from the knowledge of the educated employee until that happens. And, they hope that the individual and the company will create a strong working relationship that will persuade the employee to stay, but maybe in a higher capacity."
If you're an overeducated job seeker, make your intentions and your career goals clear in your cover letter and during interviews. "We've found [that] a discussion on the topic can be very enlightening," Cortez says. "Candidates may be at a stage in their life where they don't want to travel or where they want to be a part of a smaller organization that's in a growth cycle rather than a Fortune 500 company. The right circumstances can lead it to being a win/win situation."
Also, stress the benefits of your education and training. "I know that we care more about being educated than overeducated," Dixon says. "In my circle of networks, many employers have mentioned that they would rather hire someone with a higher degree than someone without one in this economy."
Ideally, you'll find a job where there's room to grow. "What's more productive is to apply for higher jobs where the candidate gets to grow into the position," LaReau says. "HR professionals know that the best jobs are the ones with the right balance between experience and growth." Whether you're over- or under-educated, or somewhere in-between, explain why you and this job are a good match and what each side will get out of the relationship.
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