Hiring overqualified people now makes a lot of sense

Let’s call him Vic. He has a Bachelor of Science, cum laude, in industrial engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s in management from MIT’s Sloan School. He’s had a stellar career with steadily increasing responsibilities. He even had more than 1,500 people working for him at one point.With a beautiful home in an affluent community, a family, even a horse barn, it seemed like life couldn’t get any better until 2001.Vic had taken another promotion to start a new division. A few months later, the business tanked. They canceled Vic’s project. Instead of giving him back his old job, one he had done very well, they laid him off. Vic’s had a number of jobs since, none of which has been very good or lasted very long. He applied at a number of fast-food restaurants, and still there was no interest. Today, he’s working at a chain store in a mall.I don’t think I know anyone who takes job hunting more seriously. He gets The Boston Globe early Sunday morning, scours the classifieds and responds to all potential opportunities within hours. E-mail responses go out immediately; postal responses are in the mail Sunday night. He networks profusely. A job, commensurate with his skills and experience, however, remains elusive.His wife grew more and more impatient. She didn’t want her lifestyle to change, even if they could no longer afford it. They managed to sell the house, a bitter pill I’m sure, and she divorced him.A no-brainerUnfortunately, Vic is far from the only person I know in such circumstances.When Vic first started looking, people were afraid to take him on. His credentials and experience were so impressive, they felt he would leave as soon as a better offer appeared. With a guy like him, a better offer was sure to come.Then the second trap opened. Like everyone else, Vic didn’t suddenly fall into it. He gradually slipped in.Screening and selecting new hires is tedious work, especially when you’re flooded with résumés after a brief ad. No one ever goes through all those résumés to find the very best candidates; they go through some until they find a few acceptable candidates.The screening criteria are somewhat arbitrary, but very common. Being overqualified is a red flag. Being out of work for a long period is another. Why take a chance? There are plenty of other available candidates.While some of those concerns are valid in a growing economy – I’ve used them myself – they are completely irrelevant in this economy. Just drive through an industrial park and look at the empty parking lots. We’ve sent so many jobs overseas, there is a plethora of executive, managerial, engineering and other talent that will probably never find jobs commensurate with their experience.What that means is you can hire incredibly talented people at bargain prices and not have to worry about them leaving any time soon. Even if they do leave, think of the good they can do in the meantime.This is a no-brainer, and yet so many companies are missing the boat operating under principles that used to work.Think about this: Vic, and others like him, had stellar careers. How much harder would they work in their currently desperate circumstances? There’s little question about the talent, but now he would be even more motivated than ever.I’m not suggesting taking advantage of anyone. Pay them as much as you can afford for that job. As they contribute extra value, give them the best raises and promotions you can. It could make a real difference in your business results.
Ronald J. Bourque is a consultant and speaker from Windham who has had engagements throughout the U.S. and in Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 orRonBourque@myfairpoint.net.