Thursday, April 29, 2010

Should you hire an MBA to make BLTs?

I’m hearing a lot about “overqualified applicants” from my friends in the HR business lately. With unemployment on the rise, any job out there is now a prized possession, so competition is fierce. But I keep hearing about businesses turning away applicants for entry level or service jobs because they are too old, too educated, or too experienced.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that you don’t want to hire someone who is overqualified for a position in fear that they will leave for a better opportunity when it arises.

Isn’t that the whole idea? I mean, that’s why they call them “entry level” jobs. You don’t STAY at them! You start there, and when your skills and experience match your ambition you move to a better position, and so on, and so on. Who stays at the same low-paying entry level or service position for 20 years? Who’d WANT to hire someone willing to remain at the same low-paying entry level or service position for 20 years? Come on, people.

My motto has always been “hire good people and let them do good work”. I can’t imagine a better situation to be in than to be the head of a business surrounded by the most skilled, experienced, smartest people I could get my hands on, regardless of what their current job title or duties might be.

I say go ahead and hire that guy with the Masters degree to flip burgers if he’s willing to do the work. You might need a supervisor, manager, or director further down the road, and wouldn’t it be nice to have someone already on the books who could easily step into that kind of slot immediately? Load up your bullpen with the strongest pitchers you can get ahold of, and when it’s late in the game and you need help, they’ll be ready.

And if those talented stars depart for greener pastures before you can utilize them in a more meaningful position? Don’t worry about turnover at those lower level positions too much. That comes with the territory. Fry cooks and bartenders come and go, that’s how it works.
And what a motivator for your upper level staff to know the company mailroom is crawling with motivated, educated workers looking for a way up the ladder!

I know this system works, because I was that overqualified applicant we’ve been talking about many years ago. Here’s my story. I had been working as a touring tech and stage manager for bands you probably have on your iPod for about 12 years. I took a bartending gig at a big casino in my home town during some down time to make a few bucks until the next tour started. While I was there, their concert production guy up and left. While they searched for a replacement, word got out that I had major experience in concert production. They offered me the position, and I moved in without missing a beat. I am still there all these years later.

Hire good people.

Let them do good work.

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