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Older workers and over-qualification

by on January 21, 2013

This blog post on the Huffington Post by Jessica Lappin, a New York City Council Member, raises the possibility of the term ‘over-qualified’ being used by employers as a code for ‘too old’. Others have made this point before but her piece is illustrated with recent experiences of older job seekers in New York City.

Over-qualification is an area where there isn’t much academic literature. In their 2011 paper in the journal Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Erdogan and colleagues start by acknowledging that it has become a ‘truism’ in recruitment that ‘over-qualification’ is assumed to affect job attitudes, performance, and turnover in negative ways.

They suggest, however, that workers with additional skills ‘can provide increased opportunities for organizations, perhaps even a competitive advantage’. They also advise that ideally both employees and employers should go into such a situation ‘‘with their eyes open’’ so it is clear what the employment conditions will be and what each party would gain from the employment situation.

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