In a study conducted for the International Journal of Selection and Assessment, the topic of a job candidate's qualifications were examined by approaching how organizations might view three different types of qualified applicants (underemployed or underqualified, adequately employed or qualified, and overemployed or qualified). The results sought to test three areas - how a candidate is perceived, how that affects their recommendation, and if attributing factors for underemployment influenced hiring decisions at all.
5 Key Takeaways
- The study starts off by noting that underemployment is defined as the inability to secure employment based on their qualifications; and that even though “the underemployed are commonly considered the pariahs of the applicant pool (with beliefs they exhibit lower job performance, lack organizational commitment, and have higher turnover rates), there is academic research that does not support this. This definition of underemployment (and often accepted misconception) is the key driver for this study.
- This study was conducted to examine three key areas: (I) employment qualification, (II) how qualification levels influenced person-job fit, and (III) how those qualifications influenced whether or not a candidate would be recommended for a position. Thus, the study is broken up into three separate efforts: study one evaluates the efficacy of employment qualification manipulations; study two investigates how differences between qualification groups might affect objective and subjective person-job fit and hiring recommendations; and study three examines the same as study two, but this time with attributions (for example, voluntary underemployment because of travel or medical reasons).
- Study one found evidence supporting the effectiveness of employment qualification manipulations. Essentially, during this study the researchers created three resumes of recommended candidates (overqualified, qualified, and underqualified) that all focused on the same job description. The result is that, while overqualified candidates were viewed positively, the subjects in the study still wanted to evaluate the underemployed candidates. This is because they wanted to understand what was "between the resume" so to speak, or why the candidates were being recommended in the first place.
- Study two, which aimed to see how candidates would different qualifications would be perceived, found that overqualified candidates were viewed more favorably than the underqualified candidates. In other words, the better a candidate’s qualifications seem on paper, the more favored they’ll be to do the job.
- In study three, which now tested why a candidate would be underemployed or overqualified, found that candidates who had control over their own employment (they volunteered to take time off or left for personal reasons) were favored above other circumstances (not having a reason or having a reason outside of their control like downsizing). The idea is that if a candidate demonstrates control over their own employment, with reasons behind why they might be underemployed, it shows signs of stability and reliance.
Underemployment, Hiring, and Your Organization
“Practitioners should view hiring underemployed applicants as beneficial to the organization and not risky,” the study concludes based on it’s results. “Underemployed applicants should be viewed as a source of human capital that provides an opportunity to promote from within and to control potential senior management succession gaps.”
This, of course, concludes the idea that what you see on a resume isn’t always the full story, and digging further into the reasons why a candidate might be underemployed is absolutely critical to getting a better idea of whether or not the candidate would be qualified - both as a job fit, and as a member of your organization. It’s easy to get caught in the idea that more is better, and that if a candidate doesn’t have as many qualifications then they aren’t qualified. Reasoning is everything, and avoiding getting caught in the initial perception of a resume can cost you some top tier candidates in the future.
Topics: Short and Scholarly