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Overqualified Workers May Be Less Likely to Quit Jobs

THURSDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that managers might fail to appreciate the value that overqualified workers can bring to their companies.

"If anything, our research suggests that such a candidate could be expected to stay longer and perform better than an applicant whose scores make him supposedly a better fit," Anthony Nyberg, an assistant professor of management at the University of South Carolina, said in a university news release.

"A manager trying to fill a job that demands less-than-top-level smarts should never reject a candidate out of hand just because the applicant's score on the company's intelligence tests labels him or her as smarter than the job requires," Nyberg said.

Nyberg and his colleagues analyzed information o n the work experiences of more than 5,000 adults that was gathered over a quarter century by the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

The researchers found that smarter people -- those with higher cognitive abilities -- were less likely than other workers to quit low-brainpower jobs. Those jobs, as defined by the federal government, included garbage collecting and car washing, among others.

Also, people with jobs considered the most mentally challenging were three times more likely to express job dissatisfaction than were those with less brain-taxing jobs.

Why do the findings matter? For one thing, the study suggests that it may be unwise to automatically reject the overqualified for fears that they won't be challenged on the job and will quit. "To make matters worse, courts have upheld the legality of discriminating against applicants who are 'too smart,'" Nyberg said. "This kind of thinking has no doubt tossed more than a few layoff victims into the ranks of the long-term unemployed, a group that now constitutes nearly half of all U.S. jobless."

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

More information

The American Psychological Association has information on surviving job loss.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: University of South Carolina, news release, Dec. 10, 2010

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