Part I: Understanding the Challenge
Why do hiring managers care one way or another if a job candidate is overqualified or
over-educated? I think it’s important to understand some of the reasons that employers are reluctant to hire overqualified people. Uniquely, as a recruiter, I work with both employers and attorney candidates to make the best professional match. We assist attorneys seeking more fulfilling employment that meets their long-term goals. Employers use our services to identify, qualify, attract and engage stellar attorney talent to meet critical needs in their organizations.
Law firms are often reluctant to hire over-qualified people for several reasons. One of these is that lateral hiring is typically based on year of law school graduation and affects track for promotion to partnership. Additionally, “lateral level” usually reflects compensation and experience. It’s easy to see how adjustment of lateral level may cause colleagues to become resentful and result in conflict. Alternatively, candidates themselves often end up resentful, as resentment can also result from (1) working on tasks that are too simplistic or unchallenging, or (2) feeling underpaid over time.
We also see that overqualified people are typically from a different generation and, therefore, may have different work ethic issues and expectations than Millennials or Gen Z. Some of our firm clients will consider a lateral adjustment of 1-2 years (based on year of graduation from law school, which is the gauge for our industry). However, if they go much beyond that, the aforementioned issues are likely to arise, and the result is discord in the workplace environment. Overqualified candidates should seriously consider these possible pitfalls before applying.