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Management study: Overqualified candidates underrated

Companies may want to give job candidates who are overqualified for positions a second look, according to a recent study by a Darla Moore School of Business researcher.

Dr. Anthony Nyberg’s study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology this fall, dispels the myth that overqualified job applicants are easily bored or prone to quit. Intelligent workers, the research indicates, benefit companies.

The study was co-authored with Dr. Mark Maltarich, St. Ambrose University, and Dr. Greg Reilly, University of Connecticut.

“A manager trying to fill a job that demands less-than-top-level smarts should never reject a candidate out of hand just because the applicant’s score on the company’s intelligence tests labels him or her as smarter than the job requires,” said Nyberg, an assistant professor of management and an expert in strategic human resources. “If anything, our research suggests that such a candidate could be expected to stay longer and perform better than an applicant whose scores make him supposedly a better fit.”

That may provide hope to millions out of work. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, unemployment reached 9.8 percent in November, meaning 15 million Americans are seeking employment.

The faulty and pervasive assumption among managers has been reinforced in the courts, Nyberg says.

“To make matters worse, courts have upheld the legality of discriminating against applicants who are ‘too smart,’” he said. “This kind of thinking has no doubt tossed more than a few layoff victims into the ranks of the long-term unemployed, a group that now constitutes nearly half of all U.S. jobless.”

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