Companies do not hire PhDs because of several misconception one of them is that they are overqualified

Today we see a growing number of people graduating with PhDs. Unfortunately, there is a general misconception among recruiters that a PhD holder are too theoretic and cannot rely to the “real world”.  PhD holders often gets feedbacks that they are overqualified since it is not a necessity to have a PhD degree in most work today. Since I hold an PhD in Management, I am aware of this misconception. A PhD in business, as well as other areas, is most beneficial in many reasons. It witnesses that people have been willing to go the extra mile to obtain extra knowledge. This is an advantage, due to the business sector is constantly changing which requires new advances, new skills, new growth, and new laws to meet the constantly changing demands in today’s world.

As a hiring manager or as a senior executive:

–         how many job applications with PhD have you received for a corporate positioned?

–         How many have you rejected due to their PhD degree?”

People who holds a PhD are often overlooked due to the misconceptions. Even though, they possess numerous of transferable skills, for some reason recruiters still believe they are overqualified. This is NOT the case in Germany, where it is almost obliged to have PhD to succeed in the corporate world.  Maybe it is time to look and learn from the German industry.

Misconception myths against PhD holders

#1: PhDs are overqualified and cost too much to hire

The starting salaries for university professors and researchers are modest in comparison to jobs in other industries. PhD candidates are accustomed to work in lower-paid research positions, a result of this is that salaries in the corporate world is competitive. The myth that PhD holder are unaffordable is unfounded.

#2: PhDs do not have the right interpersonal skills

By having an academic background makes PhD candidates effective and efficient learners, well suited to a variety of teams. They teach, interact with others and work in teams. They gain skills to collaborate both externally and internally due to funding and research projects through personal contact and speaking with clients. It goes without saying that individual candidates themselves have different levels of social and soft skills and this is something that would be identifiable during interviews. Therefore, one should not assume that a PhD holder is lacking anything in the social front more than other candidates.

#3: PhDs are overqualified and will get bored easy

There is no hold to say that PhD graduates get bored faster than other employees. Boredom does not just apply only to PhDs. PhD holders are like other top performers elsewhere. The case is not how to keep them busy; it is how to keep all employees stimulated. For top performers to remain challenged and engaged in their job, their day-to-day work must present opportunities for growth, advancement, and ownership.

#4: PhDs are nerds and do not have strong presentation skills

Most PhD holders have strong presentation skills, they are used to give lecture,  coach and mentoring other students. Which is applicable to the corporate world. They are used to grant writing. PhD students are often adept in writing grants for their own research, having to justify why they need the money and show how they would use it in a budget. Regretfully, PhD holders do not talk about this skills and experience with the recruiters. This kind of fund-raising skills can be a huge asset to start-ups, non-profits, and other businesses. Many organizations apply for government grants or write business proposals — which involve similar processes to writing research grants.

#5: PhDs might not be so flexible; they are used to work 9-16

I would dare to say that not many people are used to have such large workloads and manage different project and interact with different people at one time as PhD students. Today many PhD holders like me have taken to LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, and newspapers to tackle the stigma that they are work-shy. PhD holders are used to a heavy and varied workload, with the autonomy to study within their field and topic, which is very needed in the corporate world. PhDs need to manage multiple projects simultaneously and satisfy expectations from multiple stakeholders. Think of all the uncountable hours, days, week, months, and years a PhD researcher have spent trying to find answers to the world’s toughest unknown questions. It is definitely no 9 to 16 work.

What are the transferable skills PhDs bring to a company?

Often one can read in job-advertisement: “Seek candidates who can thinking outside the boxindependent problem-solving, sees the big picture etc.”. This is a PhD holder workday, they are accustomed to work without huge resources, they thrive in problem solving. Transferable skills include problem-solving, persistence and communication. 1% of the population has a PhD. Why? Because adding to a new field is hard. Anyone can learn something and then repackage it. Anyone can regurgitate information. That is easy, it is so much more difficult to create new business models and knowledge into existence for the first time. PhDs are used to deal with complex problem solving, which is an advantage in whatever industry we talk about. It is all about how to deal with the big-picture understanding,  such as how to launch a successful go-to-market strategy, a new product tapped into new demographics. People often struggle with big-picture understanding because they do not know how to even start attacking it. This is exactly the kind of problem-solving a PhD holder is used to do through their doctoral thesis. They are used to come up with rigorous, data-driven methods of solving a challenge and especially ambiguous one.

Analytical working style

To gain a PhD demands incredible analytical skills and a PhD holder will likely have more training in research and data analysing than any other of your current employees. The  workload is astounding, and their research and findings are expected to be both original and significant so that they make a unique contribution into a chosen field. A PhD holder will offer excellent analytical skills, a fresh perspective on the company field and original thinking. They will likely be able to identify any shortfalls with how the organization currently operate, find new original opportunities and innovative solutions. PhDs have valuable skills not only in data analysing but how to interpret these results.

The top desired skills in any industry position is:

–         critical thinking

–         complex problem solving

–         correct decision-making.

A PhD is used to identify problems, find the right problem, then find the right answer to that problem. They are used to attack any problems from different angle. While most people are skimming nonsense. A PhD is used to find credible information and use it. While true discovery and data creation are indeed powerful, they are useless without what follows next: data analysis. Innovation is impossible without an ability to filter through metadata and identify actionable patterns and trends. Any PhD holder is a highly trained in identifying problems and finding solutions to those problems.

Perhaps the most valuable skill is that PhDs have learned resilience in the face of uncertainty and limited resources. While other spend their entire lives choosing the sure and safe card in life. PhD do not know if their research is being funded, if their paper is going to get passed that third and last review and get published. They have no idea when the scientific committee is going to give them the green light to defend their thesis. Finally, they do not know if their project will give an answer to issue, they search for. Their work could be proven untrue at any time. They are not just comfortable with uncertainty; they thrive in it. They know that without uncertainty, discovery would not be impossible.

In summary

The misconception associated with a potential employee who holds a PhD, is very misleading. Next time you receive an application from a PhD candidate, take a second look, not only for their transferable skills, but also to diversify the workforce. A lot of them are leading in their fields of innovation and research, which is traceable directly to the “real corporate world”.  A PhD holder are qualified for any industry position. One can never be too qualified for a job and one company’s loss is another company`s gain to attract highly qualified employees.


How true is the stereotype that PhD graduates are overqualified?

Are we wasting our talent? Overqualification and overskilling among PhD graduates”

When Ph.D. stands for Problematic Hiring Detriment (2019):

Career Tracking Survey of Doctorate Holders (2017):

Why earning a PhD is an advantage in today’s industry job market (2019):

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