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Should You Hire An Overqualified Accountant? Know the Risks

When you first laid eyes on your candidate’s resume, you were blown away. She had every credential the job required, and she exceeded every benchmark. You asked for a Bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance, she has a Master’s. You need CPA certification and two years of experience… She aced the CPA exam and has eight years of experience. You need a candidate who can handle multiple client accounts… She can do this, and since she has experience at the management level, she can also oversee the accounts of her direct reports.

She’s polished, direct, a great speaker, a strong analyst, and a force to be reckoned with. But be careful. As valuable as these qualities may be, they may actually lead to a serious hiring mistake. Here are a few of the risks that may come with an overqualified employee.

Salary Issues

To attract and retain great employees, you’ll need to pay them what they’re worth. But keep in mind that your future salary increases will probably be percentage-based, so small fluctuations in a starting salary can have a serious impact over time. Taking on under-qualified candidates at a discount and training them in-house can have long term positive repercussions for your budget. The opposite can also be true.

Status Quo

It doesn’t pay to be cynical, and there’s no point in rejecting a candidate because she’s simply too smart and too experienced to fit in. But there is a possibility that your overqualified candidate may chafe at the prospect of taking orders from someone younger, less qualified, or less confident than she is. She may also have issues with company policies, processes, and operations that lack efficiency. Make sure your candidate can accept the status quo before she comes on board, or she probably won’t stay very long.


Even if you offer a competitive salary, great working conditions and plenty of room for advancement, your overqualified candidate will always be able to find something better. If she’s content and decides to stop looking, you’ll win. But she’ll always have the option, even she chooses not to exercise it. Make sure your overqualified candidate can commit to at least one year with your firm before she moves on. There may be no way to enforce this with an at-will hiring agreement, but at least try to gain some form of verbal confirmation.  Otherwise, you may be back to square one within a few months.

For more on how to choose the right candidate—not necessarily the most qualified—contact the financial staffing pros at Cordia.