More ‘overqualified’ employees may be good for organisations

Overqualification has been thought to be harmful for companies, but a study says that when it's the norm, overqualification eggs employees to perform better.

By: IANS | Washington | Published: December 27, 2015 6:04 pm
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 favourable reactions toward their own overqualification status and perform better. 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 favourable reactions toward their own overqualification status and perform better. (Source: Thinkstock Images)

Employers may be losing out by rejecting ‘overqualified’ job applicants, suggests a new study which found that employees tend to perform better when overqualification becomes a norm in the organisation.

Overqualification — the condition of employees who believe that their qualifications exceed the requirements of their jobs — has been widely considered harmful for organisations, which is why most companies tend to screen out such job applicants. Researchers at University of Notre Dame and Portland State University spent six months conducting interviews and studies of 11 information technology companies in China.

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“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 favourable reactions toward their own overqualification status and perform better,” researchers said. “Managers may benefit from understanding that as overqualification becomes normalised in the workplace, it exerts a more positive influence over such behaviours as job performance and citizenship,” said Jasmine Hu, assistant professor of management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

“Furthermore, organisations should celebrate employees’ qualifications when they are first brought on board and point out how these overqualified employees are in good company by highlighting that they will be working with a highly qualified group,” said Hu.

“Managers could also encourage more interactions among members to build team spirit, emphasising 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 behaviours,” she said.

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

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