ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (7): 1313-1330.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.01313

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I am gifted! Perceived overqualification and its influence on employees

LI Pengbo1, CHEN Limei2(), CHU Fulei3, SUN Yuqing4, ZHOU Ying1   

  1. 1 School of Tourism Sciences, Beijing International Studies University, Beijing 100024, China
    2 School of Business, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
    3 College of Business Administration, Capital University of Economics and Business, Beijing 100070, China
    4 Antai College of Economics and Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200030, China
  • Received:2020-12-04 Online:2021-07-15 Published:2021-05-24
  • Contact: CHEN Limei


Perceived overqualification refers to one’s perception of possessing more education, experience, knowledge, skills, and abilities than the required job qualifications. Overqualification is a common phenomenon in organizations and has gradually become a hot topic in the research of organizational behavior. After years of development and accumulation, existing research has conducted in-depth discussions on the connotation, measurement, effects and situational factors of employees’ perceived qualification, and formed a relatively complete knowledge map; however, in terms of the construct itself and the effects of perceived overqualification, existing research still holds different views and inconsistent conclusions, and needs to be improved in future studies.

What is perceived overqualification? How to measure it? What kinds of negative effects does it have on employees? What are the situational factors of these negative effects? Does it only have negative effects? What are the theoretical mechanisms behind these effects? Based on these questions, this paper systematically sorts out and deeply analyzes the existing studies, and the results show that: (1) perceived overqualification reflects employees’ subjective perception of overqualification, and existing research has not yet achieved consensus on its dimensions and all measurements are developed based on western context; (2) perceived overqualification can negatively influence employees’ work attitudes, behavior and performance, as well as their physical and mental health, through affecting their cognitive feelings and emotional experience. Furthermore, these negative effects can be enhanced, weakened or even eliminated under the influence of different employees’ personal traits (e.g., personality, need orientation, values, cognitive evaluation, etc.) and different situations (e.g., organizational practice, team relationship, leadership style, work-related characteristics, etc.); (3) in addition to the negative effects, perceived qualification also has a positive effect, U-shaped effect or inverted U-shaped effect on some positive outcomes, such as employees’ proactive behavior, in-role performance, creative performance and so forth. (4) human capital theory, person-job fit theory, relative deprivation theory, equity theory, psychological contract theory, and conservation of resource theory are the main theories to explain the negative influences of perceived overqualification, whereas self-categorization theory, self-verification theory, and self-regulation theory are the ones to explain its positive influences.

On the basis of the above research findings, this paper proposes the following four important research directions for future research on perceived overqualification: (1) future research can conduct more extensive and in-depth surveys on Chinese employees and take its root in Chinese context to clarify the connotation and structure of perceived overqualification, explore and develop a more clearly structured scale of perceived overqualification with higher reliability and validity that can reflect Chinese context; (2) future research can overcome the limitation of existing research that focuses on the individual level, and pay more attention to perceived overqualification on the team level, optimizing its measurement and examining its multi-level effects on the team-level and individual-level outcomes; (3) future research can explore the influence of perceived overqualification on employees and its mechanisms from a more integrated perspective. In particular, future research can build a parallel mediation model to compare the mechanism and intensity of negative and positive effects of perceived overqualification, and to explore the boundary conditions of these two different effects; (4) future research can examine the changing process and influencing factors of perceived overqualification from a more dynamic perspective. Besides, future research can take into consideration other important factors, such as external uncertainty, and explore the effect based on a longer time frame to capture its long-term trend.

Key words: overqualification, perceived overqualification, subjective perception

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