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HIP Employees Are Now "On Sale"
Is There Such a Thing as "Overqualified"?
Over the course of twenty-five years in business I have interviewed well over a thousand people for various jobs and hired probably a hundred of those for key positions. As a result, I think I have a good understanding of the hiring process and what an employer is typically looking for. Now that I have experienced the other side of the equation though, I am beginning to have my doubts.
After a two year sabbatical spent sailing and writing, I returned and began seeking a new opportunity for my career in the resort and marina business (i.e.: meaningful and interesting work with potential for growth and improvement). I sent my resume via mail and email to more than 300 contacts, continued to stay active in the industry as a consultant, and in contact with industry peers. With the poor economy, response was more limited than I had hoped, but I did interview for a number of positions that appeared to meet my qualifications and objectives, and several of the initial interviews led to second, and in one case third interviews.
The process was both interesting and frustrating and gave me some new insight I think. The current economy has put a lot of highly qualified people on the market looking for work (i.e.: meaningful employment). I would have thought that employers would see this as an opportunity to take advantage of some of the better talent on the market now. As I worked through the interview process though, it led me to the conclusion that many employers, or at least their hiring managers, are not necessarily thinking of hiring the best and brightest, even if they could be hired at a bargain rate, but rather are focused primarily on just "filing a position" while minimizing expenses and maintaining a comfortable status quo in their operations.
One company that I interviewed with seemed very sincere when they told me that they were looking for a General Manager who could help them develop and operate “the best marina resort in the world”; a lofty goal to say the least. When the topic turned to my past compensation, it became apparent that their idea of “best” was focused on the facilities and other facades, not necessarily on the operations. The issue of my past compensation and experience seemed to overwhelm their view of my potential contribution to the project's success. Did I have too much experience? Ultimately they didn’t even make me an offer, and informed me later that they had decided to go with another applicant with less experience, but who lived in the local market area. Obviously their world was smaller than I thought.
Another operation, a municipality on the brink of redeveloping their city marina, was at least more forthright when one of the interviewers said somewhat obliquely that they were concerned that I was “over qualified” for the position. Did that mean that I knew too much? I got the feeling that what they were really concerned about was that they might be under qualified for their positions, and probably looking for someone who wouldn’t overshadow them. A third interviewer told me that he didn’t think they could afford me (He never asked!), and a fourth said simply that he didn’t see how I would be happy with the job they had to fill, but neither of them made an offer, or answered my inquiries later.
Of course it is possible that these interviewers were just making excuses for not hiring me, but even if they were just excuses, they are an indication of a state of mind and a business philosophy that I find troubling. Why would a business be averse to hiring an “over qualified” employee if they could?
Research indicates that companies take this stance because of a belief that top performers will “find the job unrewarding” and / or will “be hired away by the competition” and / or will “require higher pay in the future”. Such concerns however, are reflections on the company, the job, and a leadership with obviously limited vision and objectives, and not inherently true of top performing employees in a comfortable work environment.
Now's The Time To Find Your HIP.....
In all of my years interviewing job candidates, I don’t think I ever considered not hiring someone because they might know more than I did. At one point I had three MBA’s working for me, all with more education and experience than I. In a normal economy finding qualified staff is difficult, and so I was usually stuck with "filing the position" and hiring under-qualified applicants; I seldom came across the perfectly “qualified” applicant. "Filling the position" was seldom a productive approach, and I can tell you from experience that the cost of managing and training the typically unmotivated or incapable “under” achiever far exceeded the premium I sometimes paid the “over” qualified employee.
In 1968, Peter Drucker, noted management expert, proclaimed that we were entering a new knowledge and service economy, and business leaders today recognize that our economy has evolved from a manufacturing base to one of customer and professional services. In this new economy, employees are the primary means of production and revenue, and the quality, talent, and capabilities of leadership and staff are the defining elements of a company’s success. We don't sell computers, and sandwiches, and groceries, we sell service, and differentiate our businesses by the quality of that service experience. You can make the best sandwich "in the world", but if it is served by an unfriendly, or unmotivated, or incapable employee I guarantee you the customer will only remember the poor service. Employers today should be using the current weak economy as an opportunity to better define their customer service needs and employee qualifications, and develop HR strategies for developing and acquiring high impact performance (HIP) employees to deliver that service.
Developing and delivering top quality customer service is as much an art as a science, and it takes talent. Identifying such talent is not a difficult task once employers recognize the capabilities and attributes that make up a HIP employee. They may be a line employee who just “gets it”; someone who understands and can implement the new service oriented paradigm, the relationship between people, service, and success. They may be a transformative leader, a person who can lift an operation from the mire and help other employees “get it”, or help take an already successful business to the next level. They are people who show “capability”, the capability for interacting with people, creative innovation, constructive problem solving, and optimizing service and success. They exist at every level of work and responsibility.
The past year of diminishing growth and shrinking companies has created a large supply of these quality High Impact Performance employees seeking jobs today. With the recession apparently diminishing and recovery on the horizon, companies in a position to hire should be looking closely at the current glut of talented “over qualified” job seekers as an opportunity to acquire the best and brightest employees “on sale” and position themselves now to make the most of the future. They will find that these talented achievers do in fact contribute far more than they cost.
Many businesses have learned that no matter how exquisite (ie: “world class”) and unique their facilities and amenities may be, if their service and staff do not meet their customer’s expectations then their product is lacking, and they will fail to meet their potential. Quality employees and service can improve the perception of a lacking facility, but fine facades and rote procedures and practices will not improve operations and differentiate a company from the competition. The attitude that “adequate staffing” is good enough as long as it doesn’t cost too much, will not create a burgeoning future. Those businesses who fail to hire and develop high impact players because of their focus on the limiting factors of short-term planning and budgets, and maintaining the status quo, will find themselves lacking the necessary talent to transform and highlight their service, and prosper in this new economy. The status quo may be comfortable today, but remember the lessons of the past; “If you’re not on the leading edge, you’ll be buried by the wave”. The next wave is coming and in today’s world a company’s employees form the leading edge.
Published Articles, Essays, and Stories by James "J" Mills
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Published articles, essays, and stories by James "J" Mills (aka: James McV)