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Overqualification, mismatched qualification, and hiring decisions: Perceptions of employers

Mukta Kulkarni (Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, Bangalore, India)
Mark L. Lengnick-Hall (Department of Management, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, USA)
Patricia G. Martinez (Management Department, College of Business Administration, Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 1 June 2015




The purpose of this paper is to examine how employers define overqualification and mismatched qualification and whether they are willing to hire applicants whose educational and work experience credentials do not match job requirements.


This paper draws from qualitative interview data from 24 hiring managers across a wide range of US public sector and private industries. Data were analyzed and coded to identify themes related to managers’ perceptions of overqualification, matched, and mismatched qualification, and how these were related to selection decisions. A typology is proposed for categorizing applicant qualification levels and their potential human resource outcomes such as hiring decisions.


Hiring managers report that they are willing to interview and hire individuals whose education or experience exceed a job’s requirements as well as applicants with less than required education, but only if they possess sufficient compensatory experience.

Research limitations/implications

Findings may not apply to industries where minimum educational levels are essential or to small organizations with few opportunities for career advancement.

Social implications

Given current unemployment and underemployment levels, the findings can inform the job search strategies of job seekers. Overqualified applicants should not refrain from applying to job openings, particularly in organizations with opportunities for advancement and where education is considered an asset. Additionally, applicants should reveal their motivations for pursing positions that are intentional mismatches.


In contrast to previous studies conducted during periods of lower unemployment and underemployment, these data include managers’ perceptions of overqualification in a recession and post-recession job market context and thus are especially relevant to today’s employment context. The proposed typology distinguishes between categorizations of qualified, overqualified, and underqualified, and helps refine studies aimed at selection decisions.



Kulkarni, M., Lengnick-Hall, M.L. and Martinez, P.G. (2015), "Overqualification, mismatched qualification, and hiring decisions: Perceptions of employers", Personnel Review, Vol. 44 No. 4, pp. 529-549.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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