It’s time to rethink the degree-based hiring approach.
For a long time, there has been an expectation at many organisations that candidates must have a relevant university or college degree. With the current job market, it may be time for forward-thinking hiring managers to re-evaluate this. In fact, many organisations are already ditching the degree requirements in their job listings. Not only does the practice shrink the talent pool substantially and exclude potentially trainable candidates, but also dismisses those from diverse backgrounds. The world of work is changing so fast that a computer or marketing degree received 20 years ago would have taught the student very little of the skills they need today. So why are employers still asking for this?
Employers often list the requirement of a degree in the job description by default, even when it would have no impact on a person’s ability to perform in the position. It’s gotten so out-of-hand, that jobs previously requiring no qualification have now begun asking for them. For example, in 2015, only 16% of employed production supervisors had a degree, yet 67% of job postings for that same position were asking for one. The phenomenon is known as ‘degree inflation, and it’s not good for anyone.
What is Degree Inflation and Why is it so Bad?
Degree Inflation happens when degrees become more and more common. With so much supply, the perceived value of a university degree has lessened. It’s become almost an expectation to have one. As a result, even entry-level positions that may not require one are asking for them. The problem is that this system does not benefit anyone, and is unfair to candidates who have not had university opportunities. For organisations that care about inclusive hiring practices (and all of them should) having the non-negotiable requirement of a university degree can make it very difficult to find candidates from underrepresented groups. Degree inflation is very harmful to culturally diverse and marginalised job-seekers who may not have had the opportunity to attend university. They may have all the skills required, and all the enthusiasm to learn on the job, yet they’re automatically excluded from the recruitment process before it even begins.
This isn’t just a problem for the candidates either. Degree inflation means that many organisations unnecessarily struggle to fill positions, paying the cost of a long time to hire, all the while ignoring candidates with the right skills and experience but no degree. The issue is even more important in the current employment market, where organisations are struggling to find and hire the right candidates.
The Right Skillset Makes Degrees Redundant
The simple way to deal with a talent shortage is to expand the pool in which you’re looking, and including candidates without a degree is one way to do so. In fact, there’s not really any downside.
While degrees can help lay the foundation of knowledge for entry-level positions, the fact of the matter is that for many roles, it simply isn’t necessary. That’s not to say that you should ignore a person’s degree. It shows they have a dedication to the field, verifiable knowledge, and applicable skills. But what I am saying is that to look past an otherwise suitable candidate due to their lack of a degree is shooting yourself in the foot. In many cases, a good onboarding program, training, and experience can set a new hire up for success just as much as a degree would.
Consider which skills can be taught on the job, and which soft skills a candidate may already have. How well would they fit in at the organisation, do they have any experiences that could help diversify the team’s outlook and cover any gaps?
The removal of unnecessary barriers is one of the most important changes in recruitment today. Not only is it helping organisations to find more talent, but it’s also building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive market for all. Inflated degree requirements are one of the most noticeable roadblocks keeping suitable candidates from their ideal positions.
While your organisation has unique policies and needs, keep in mind that some of them may be outdated or irrelevant when you’re assessing candidates. Shifting recruitment away from the assumed requirement of a degree is a win-win, more candidates for you, and more opportunities for job-seekers, especially diverse or underrepresented talent.