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Grow Your Business Your Team

Hiring Overqualified Employees Might Be Good for Your Business

Hiring Overqualified Employees Might Be Good for Your Business
Credit: ScandinavianStock/Shutterstock

Despite common beliefs, hiring overqualified employees isn't always harmful to your business, new research suggests.

Although it has long been accepted that hiring overqualified employees is detrimental to an organization, new research finds that there are ways to negate the negative impact, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The key to seeing benefits from overqualified employees is hiring them regularly, rather than making their hires a rare occurrence, the study found.

The study defines overqualification as an "employment situation in which employees feel that they possess surplus qualifications relative to what a job requires.

"When individual employees feel that they are not the only 'big fish in the pond,' and when overqualification becomes a norm rather than exception within the group, they tend to have more favorable reactions toward their own overqualification status and perform better," the study's authors wrote.

The research was based on interviews and studies of 351 employees and their supervisors from 11 information technology companies in China over a six-month period. [Now Hiring? Leadership Language to Look For ]

The study's authors found that when working with co-workers whose average overqualification level was high, employees who felt overqualified perceived greater task-significance, felt that they fit in better with their peers and demonstrated higher levels of performance.

"Managers may benefit from understanding that as overqualification becomes normalized in the workplace, it exerts a more positive influence over such behaviors as job performance and citizenship," Jasmine Hu, one of the study's authors and an assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame, said in a statement.

To ensure overqualified employees know they aren't alone, organizations should recognize employees' qualifications when they are first hired and point out they are in good company by emphasizing that they will be working with a highly qualified group, Hu said.

"Managers could also encourage more interactions among members to build team spirit, emphasizing the importance of benefiting others through one's work, and highlight the interpersonal compatibility within a group to promote the positive influence of overqualification on employee attitudes and behaviors," Hu said.

The study was co-authored by Kaifeng Jiang, an assistant professor at Notre Dame, and Berrin Erdogan and Talya Bauer, professors at Portland State University.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.