Kristina FinsethJanuary 10, 2017
Topics: Recruiter Experience

Your Candidate Doesn't Have a Degree. So What?

Companies like Apple, Whole Foods, Ernst & Young, and Google are setting an example. Big name companies like these have publicly announced that they no longer require a four-year degree in order to hire talent.

When I graduated from college, I interviewed with several companies for entry-level HR and recruiting positions. It was an interesting process for me, and I gathered some valuable insight that has been filtered into my writing throughout the last couple of years.

One interview really stood out to me, and not in a good way.

I made it to the final interview with a large and internationally recognized recruiting firm, and was brought in to meet with their Regional SVP. I sat across from him, and I vividly remember him scouring through my resume.

Then, with a disgusted look on his face, he proceeded to ask me why I chose to go to DeVry University to complete my undergraduate studies instead of a more reputable one like Rowan, Rutgers, Temple or Drexel. At that time, I wasn’t quite sure what he was trying to accomplish by asking me that question, and in the grand scheme of things, it was an unnecessary, uncomfortable, and insignificant question.

Right then and there, I knew I didn’t want to work with that company.

I’ve worked with hiring managers in the past that expected candidates to have a four-year college degree. To them, it means that the candidate has the right foundational knowledge and aptitude to be successful on their team. To the candidate, it means that they didn’t waste money on college, and that they can leverage their degree to land an awesome career opportunity.

But, the million-dollar question is – should you really care if your candidate has a degree? And, on top of that – if your candidate has a degree, do really care what university it’s from?

As someone who has completed both her undergrad and graduate degrees within the last five years, I’m here to tell you three reasons you should look beyond the degree.

Just because a candidate completes school doesn’t mean they will be successful Many companies look at whether or not a candidate has a degree as a filter to finding what they feel may be the “cream of the crop” in the talent pool. News flash - whether or not a candidate has a degree doesn't make or not make them a top candidate.

Although there are quite a few articles that show the correlation between education and income, does that mean that only college graduates can be successful? Not necessarily.

Take a look at Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Michael Dell. They all became highly successful entrepreneurs and business owners, and not one of them graduated from college with a degree.

Companies like Apple, Whole Foods, Ernst & Young, and Google are looking deeper Specifically in 2015, Ernst & Young announced that they were removing the degree classification from their employment criteria - stating that they felt there was zero correlation between the degree and employment success.

And Google? According to this article by Venture Beat, Google values the skills and experiences that candidates get in college, but a degree doesn't tell them much about talent or grit.

Many positions can be filled with candidates who have the right soft skills You’ve probably heard the infamous saying, “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” For a lot of positions requiring certain soft skills like effective communication, ability to work on a team, adaptability, problem-solving, and conflict resolution – it shouldn’t matter if the candidate has a degree.

Of course, if you are looking for a highly specialized position requiring certain certifications and training like a nurse or an engineer - then of course some of these things cannot be overlooked. But what about all those entry level positions that require a college degree, but new hires are completely oriented and trained for success in their positions anyway? In that case, the right candidate possessing the right soft skills shouldn't be overlooked.


What are your thoughts? Does it matter if your candidate graduated from college?

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