Overqualified candidates can often be challenging for nonprofits to take on—while experience, knowledge and self-sufficiency can be appealing, the potential for boredom and chances for increased turnover in the workplace can make any employer feel uneasy. While there are both benefits and downsides to hiring overqualified candidates, finding a middle ground is key to gaining the most value from these particular hires and providing work that continues to challenge them.
The “right” overqualified candidate can bring a plethora of skill sets to a nonprofit organization—experience, expertise, proficiency in basic skills, leadership potential and the ability to take on challenging projects and tasks. Unfortunately, the chance of these candidates being ruled out solely on a brief look at their resume happens more often than we think.
Often, a presumed risk among nonprofit organizations is that these candidates may become bored, unmotivated or leave the position quickly. On the bright side, overqualified candidates are likely to be able to hit the ground running. Already being equipped with the basic skills needed for the position, they likely don’t require too much hand-holding. In the long-run, this can help you save valuable time and money when it comes to onboarding.
The key to bringing on any new hire is finding the right balance. When it comes to an overqualified candidate, an employer may have concerns about training because they may have habits that are difficult to modify. On the other hand, if the candidate is educated about the culture and values of your organization during the recruitment process, they will embrace and absorb new formalities relatively quickly.
To avoid being a “life raft” or “stepping stone”, it is important to be honest and transparent with a candidate that is overqualified. Explain your concerns about the role in comparison to their experience and be upfront about your expectations. One of the most common concerns is the topic of salary. During these conversations, it’s important to touch on the candidate’s long-term career goals, including what motivated them to apply for this position and what they hope to contribute to the organization.
Last but not least, remember to keep an open mind! While a candidate may look like they are overqualified on paper, they may have a personal reason for applying to the position. They may be looking to switch into a different industry that they’re more passionate about… they may have always wanted to work for a nonprofit and it’s beneficial for you to find out whether they could be a positive addition to your team and help further strengthen your mission.