Recruiting and Staffing

Hiring Wisdom: Do You Really Need a Degree to Get a Job?

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Most employee recruiting ads read something like this: “…high school diploma required or college degree required or MBA required.“

I have one question: WHY?

Can you really give me a good reason or is it just something we have always done?

You may say it shows commitment, an ability to learn, or even a willingness to go into debt. But unless you need a specific license or skill that can only be earned by some kind of certification, maybe all that diploma says is they were willing to conform to the system long enough to get a degree.

Is that a good reason to require one?

What about your other qualifications; are they must haves or just nice to have? Do they really separate the producers from the pretenders?

This was originally published on Mel Kleiman’s Humetrics blog.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally-known authority on recruiting, selecting, and hiring hourly employees. He has been the president of Humetrics since 1976 and has over 30 years of practical experience, research, consulting and professional speaking work to his credit. Contact him at mkleiman@humetrics.com.
  • http://twitter.com/westfallonline Chris Westfall

    The typical question is, “What are your credentials?” because credentials (traditional thinking tells us in HR) establish credibility. However, I believe a better question is, “Can you help us?” An employee or contractor’s ability to make a difference may be judged by external history or education – but this post is exactly right: what you’ve done before, and what you’ve studied, is not a real differentiator. To separate the producers from the pretenders, look beyond education and experience to find out if the candidate can really make a contribution. Perhaps the only real value of the candidate’s degree is to corroborate your intuition. The ROI on advanced education is a suspicious one, with college costs rising at a pace that rivals healthcare. What if all a college degree says about a candidate is, “They figured out a way to afford that education, and those student loans are a great motivator.” But, how does that answer the question, “Can you help us?” The answer will vary, by degree :-)

  • infusionculture

    I heard an interesting comment on a podcast (can’t remember which one) where the question was what should you study if you want to be a journalist. The answer was to study some sort of social science because journalists are trained in editorial practice by whatever publication they go to.

    However, it might be hard for someone with neither journalism nor social science background to contribute in a meaningful way to analysis and story development. But if someone is going into tech support, why would they need a college degree? Another one is sales; do you really need a college education for that? I think not.

    Ultimately, it probably comes down to the specific job and the basic skills candidates need to have and how much training can be done. I think companies hide behind the college degree requirement because they don’t want to train people. But the truth is that most people need some level of on-the-job training.

  • Debra Nortje

    I absolutely agree with you. One possible value is being able to ascertain that the candidate has the ability to learn and pick up the job specific skills required.