Employee Relations

The Effects of Overqualification

Have you ever worked in a position where you felt you were overqualified? Perhaps the knowledge you possessed was not used or the skills and abilities you had could not be demonstrated. Overqualification, or when an individual’s credentials surpass the job’s requirements, is increasingly common, especially when the job market is competitive.

How Does Overqualification Affect Organizational Outcomes?

Hiring an employee who is overqualified for the position could affect the organization both positively and negatively. Overqualified employees are:
  • More likely to perform at a higher level. This could be a result of overqualified employees possessing more than the required skills and abilities. Additionally, the employee may expect that positive rewards often come from objective performance ratings (i.e. high supervisor ratings = high bonuses), which they feel they deserve. Finally, the employee may perform at a high level consistently applying their higher level of knowledge, skills, and abilities in the position. Therefore, the employee’s performance should be greater than those who are not overqualified.
  • Less satisfied. Employees who possess certain knowledge, skills and abilities may feel entitled to a particular position or salary. When employees do not get what they perceive they deserve, they may become frustrated, and in turn, experience negative emotions directed toward the organization.
  • More likely to leave the organization. As the discrepancy between what individuals feel they are entitled to and what the position offers increases, frustration and negative emotions toward the organization will also increase. This may result in individuals leaving the organization.

Is There a Way to Reduce the Negative Impact of Overqualification?

The negative organizational outcomes related to overqualification are due to a discrepancy in what the employee perceives they deserve and what they are receiving. Empowering the employee and giving them more autonomy within the workplace can mitigate the negative outcomes of overqualification. This can be done by communicating to the employee that they are valued and giving them control over work outcomes. This will convey the employee is a trusted and valued entity within the organization. As a result, the negative effects of overqualification can be reduced.

Practical Implications

Organizations must continue to actively recruit individuals who are the most qualified or even overqualified for positions. If an opportunity for advancement or a bonus may be available in the future, this can be communicated to the overqualified employee in advance to reduce negative attitudes; however, this approach should be used with caution, as employees may become extremely discouraged and dissatisfied if they believe they will advance or be given a bonus and neither occur. Hiring individuals who possess skills and abilities greater than those required of the position ultimately benefits the organization when coupled with giving the employee more autonomy and control, while communicating that they are a valued entity within the organization. This can aid in reducing both negative job attitudes and intentions to quit of these overqualified employees.

Interpretation by:

Elizabeth Allen

The DeGarmo Group

This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Erdogan, B. & Bauer, T. (2009). Perceived overqualification and its outcomes: The moderating role of empowerment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94 (2). 557-565.