What is the problem with hiring overqualified employees

Overqualification: In the vicious circle of further training

You never stop learning. Life is an eternal process of development, in which one must never stand still and should continue to educate oneself. This constant pursuit of knowledge, additional skills and training has made it more difficult to find a job on the job market where you can apply all of your knowledge. This has made overqualification a big issue. The number of job vacancies does not increase as quickly as the qualifications of the applicants. Finding a suitable job has become a major challenge, especially for job seekers over 50. There are sufficiently younger, “cheaper” people on the market who want to build a career in a company and will not leave the company anytime soon.

Who is predominantly affected by overqualification?

In what situations do people have to struggle with this issue at all? Overqualification affects both young and older workers. After their training, young people usually have very high expectations of their first job and are then often disappointed. They would like to get started immediately with full motivation, but are not yet “allowed” to fully show their skills. Another difficulty here is that many companies do not want to hire graduates without sufficient work experience. However, this is more of a temporary problem. As soon as they are trained, they are also given the confidence to take on tasks.

As an older person, it really is not easy on the market. You bring a lot of experience, knowledge and resources with you, for which you naturally want to be paid accordingly. Many companies do not want to afford this and are afraid that employees over 50 will only want to do their retirement.

In addition, people who have taken a career break are often affected. Foreign skilled workers also find it difficult to apply the qualifications they have acquired in their home country in their target country, such as Germany or Austria.

Overqualification - Heaven or Hell?

One might think that too high a qualification of an employee is not a big problem. On the contrary, many people think that this is the “jackpot”, a comfortable job, no difficult tasks, you are not challenged very much and you don’t tear your legs out. In addition, as an employee you are simply better than originally required, what can be bad about that? Unfortunately, in reality it is quite a problem. Because in the long run, an employee who is clearly overqualified will not be happy with his job. A study was able to show that people who consider themselves to be overqualified in their job are more dissatisfied with their work than people who are adequately employed. In addition, it was found that employees who are overqualified suffer from stress symptoms more often, resulting in more frequent absenteeism and unfocused, sometimes bored behavior. In addition, these people have less loyalty to the company, have a higher need to resign and consequently have a higher turnover rate. Although they have a worse attitude towards their work, the work performance is on average better than that of other employees.

Just a lazy excuse?

There are also application situations in which one has the feeling that the alleged overqualification is being used as a lazy excuse. If you really want a job or need it urgently, you don't like to hear that you are simply too good for it. Fears or fears on the part of the employer are often behind such a statement. A common reason for a rejection on the grounds of overqualification is excessive salary expectations. Additional qualifications cost the company a lot of money, which is gladly saved at this point. Many companies prefer to rely on younger employees who, due to their limited experience, cannot claim a salary that is quite as high. If you are clearly overqualified for a job, the employer will also be afraid that the employee is only looking for a temporary solution and will 'fly the fly' at the next best job offer. If teamwork is a top priority in a job, a skill imbalance could lead to conflict and power struggles. In addition, the manager himself could feel threatened, as the new employee may become a potential competitor. If there is a mixture of very high qualifications and older people, there could be concerns that the new employee does not want to be subordinate, as he may have more experience than his own boss. Overqualification is also often used as an excuse when the chemistry of the applicant is simply not right.

For these and many other reasons, it often happens that extremely valuable and qualified people who really have something on the box in their field cannot find a job for years. People who are constantly developing, want to learn new things and face challenges, but do not get the change to make it happen.

In the vicious circle of further training

For me this situation represents a kind of vicious circle. On the one hand, more and more additional training and broad know-how are required. Without many years of training or an academic degree, it becomes more difficult to gain a foothold in the job market. On the other hand, employers do not want to spend more money on it and it is apparently impossible to make up for the financial losses due to long-term training. What do you get out of it in the end? To be labeled as overqualified?
We would be very happy if you shared your experiences on the subject of overqualification with us! Have you ever heard the reason for a job refusal that you are overqualified for a position? Can you imagine that overqualification also has something to do with personality? That, for example, people with a high level of self-confidence consider themselves to be overqualified than people with low self-esteem? We look forward to discussing with you!


Learning is like rowing against the current. If you stop it, you drift back
from Laozi


  • Waldburger D. (2013). Overqualification, job satisfaction and job performance. University of Zurich, Germany.
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