Edition 52, Human Resources

The Educational-Job match of Recent Graduates Within the Company

By: Jesús Yeves

The fit between the individual and the job is one of the most important challenges that a company faces in the selection of personnel.

This fit is defined as the congruence between the characteristics of the individual (personality traits, values, expectations, needs and motivations, abilities, skills and knowledge) and the characteristics of the work environment (Hontangas and Peiró, 1996).

When candidates are selected, the position they will occupy must be taken into account, in addition to whether it offers them a career in the future. Herein lies the importance of bearing in mind the alignment between the person’s skills and the educational requirements of the job. The quality of the fit greatly determines employee productivity and the profitability of the organization. In addition, the match has an influence on the early development of the professional career of graduates at the moment of obtaining higher-quality jobs.

This match between the educational level of the recent graduate and the level required for the position is twofold: vertical and horizontal (Béduwé and Giret, 2011). The vertical match refers to the level of education that the person has and the level required for the job. This variety gives rise to three situations: 1) the person has the educational level required for the job; 2) the person has a higher level of education required for the job, which is called “overqualified” (or “overeducated”); and 3) the person has a level of education below that required for the job (“underqualified”).

On the other hand, the horizontal match indicates the degree of congruence between the person’s area of expertise and that required for the job.

Consequences of Vertical and Horizontal Matchs of Recent Graduates

Both types of matchs have individual and organizational implications. In both cases, having a job that is adjusted to the individual, both vertically and horizontally, increases motivation, job satisfaction, performance and salary (Allen and De Weert, 2007). When recently graduated employees are correctly aligned it allows them to continue growing within the company in a manner that is consistent with the education they received during their formative stage. This favors promotion and obtaining higher-quality positions in the early stage of their career. As for the company, matchs are a benefit in terms of lower training costs and job turnover, and increased productivity.

However, sometimes there are situations where a vertical mismatch occurs, when the employee is overqualified. In this case, the company will not take full advantage of his/her skills, knowledge and abilities acquired in the formative stage, and with the passage of time if the company does not establish strategies to alleviate the situation, it will lose some of the employee’s potential or he/she will end up leaving. These circumstances discourage the employee, generate greater dissatisfaction and, contrary to what one would expect, they earn a lower salary than those individuals who are well matched in their jobs (Allen and De Weert, 2007; Béduwé and Giret, 2011). For the organization, these cases represent an additional expense, especially in times of economic expansion, because there is a greater risk that employees will leave their jobs for a better offer. This means higher turnover and loss of profit for the company in terms of recruitment, training and adaptation to the position.

The consequences in the case of a vertical mismatch for underqualification are not as negative. On the one hand, it can be a challenge to the employee, boost his/her job performance and increase job satisfaction (García-Montalvo, Palafox, Peiró and Prieto, 1997). However, it also leads to work overload, presents greater job insecurity, and therefore, more stress. At the organizational level, it has a number of negative consequences, such as increased spending on training, production problems attributed to poor performance or higher rates of absenteeism due to stress.

The consequences of horizontal mismatch are very similar to those of over-qualification, as seen in the reduction in the employee’s job satisfaction, performance and salary, as well as a greater intention to leave the company (Allen and De Weert, 2007). The consequences for the organization are higher training costs, turnover and low production rates.

In situations in which there is a match in one and not the other (that is, the employee is aligned vertically but not horizontally or vice-versa), the impact is more negative than when the mismatch is vertical. That is because the “knowledge transfer” dampens the negative consequences of the horizontal mismatch. In other words, there are general and valid fields of knowledge, skills and competencies that are transferable to other areas. This means job satisfaction, motivation, salary and the intention to remain in the organization are greater in the horizontal mismatch than among those who are overqualified (Béduwé and Giret, 2011). In this sense, the greater the job specification, the greater the problems will be as a result of horizontal mismatch.

Palliatives for the Negative Consequences of the Mismatch

Because of everything said so far, companies typically reject candidates whose skills do not fit the job requirement. However, there are cases in which firms hire employees whose skills do not match those required for the position (overqualification is one of the most characteristic and studied situations). Listed below are a number of strategies that may be useful to address educational mismatch.

First, in the case of overqualification, a psychological contract can be established with the newly graduate in which you communicate openly the responsibilities that they will have to fulfill from a perspective that enhances their career. That is, you convey to the person that although in the beginning, they will be performing tasks in the company for which they are overqualified, in the future they will take on projects of greater complexity and that will be more appropriate to their training. You can even offer, realistically, the possibility of advancement through internal promotion if their performance is satisfactory.

Another useful practice is the redesign of the position, which also helps to better manage the talent of these graduates, by granting greater autonomy. So, in this way you motivate employees by giving them greater control over their work and fostering a sense of confidence in themselves.

On the other hand, identifying additional skills and qualifications of recent graduates that can be applied in their job (through performance assessments or monitoring) is a source of motivation. In addition, this knowledge can lead to performances that are not restricted to the scope of the functions of the post and prove advantageous for the organization.

In the case of underqualified employees or those who are horizontally mismatched, the best strategy to reduce the negative consequences is the investment in training to compensate for the deficiency of knowledge, skills and abilities. In this sense, we have to adapt the training plans in a specific manner to meet the needs of the employees.

When managing and designing these strategies, it is important to align them with the mission and vision of the organization, as well as the Human Resources policies, so that the hiring of mismatched graduates does not represent too many negative consequences for the company and the person.

In conclusion, the mismatch between the education received and the job brings a number of negative consequences for both the individual and the organization. However, depending on how the company manages the needs of these employees, these negative consequences can be ironed out and may even be beneficial for both parties.?


  • Allen, J., y De Weert, E. (2007). What Do Educational Mismatches Tell Us About Skill Mismatches? A Cross-country Analysis. European Journal of Education, 42(1), 59-73.
  • Béduwé, C. y Giret, J. F. (2011). Mismatch of Vocational Graduates: What Penalty on French Labour Market? Journal of Vocational Behavior, 78, 68-79.
  • García-Montalvo, J., Palafox, J., Peiró, J.M., y Prieto, F. (1997). Capital humano: La inserción laboral de los jóvenes de la Comunidad Valenciana. Valencia: Fundación Bancaja-IVIE.
  • Hontangas, P.M., y Peiró, J.M. (1996). Ajuste Persona-Trabajo, en J.M. Peiró y F. Prieto (comps.), Tratado de psicología del trabajo: La actividad laboral en su contexto, pp. 251-281. Madrid: Síntesis.

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