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Is That Degree Really Necessary?

The education section of a job description is very common these days. In most cases, there are some mandatory requirements in there telling applicants that if they don’t have a certain education, they shouldn’t even bother applying.  Have you ever taken a step back to look at your descriptions and ask yourself if that requirement really is necessary?

If you’re hiring for a highly skilled professional position, such as an accountant, lawyer, engineer, or an IT professional with extensive knowledge on a specific technology, education should definitely play a key factor.  But there are also some situations when you may be able to back down, look past the lack of degree, and really analyze their experience.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Graduation Cap and CertificateAre you hiring for a performance-based role? The easiest example here is a sales position. It doesn’t matter if they went to a prestigious school 15 years ago, what matters is if they can make money today.  Check out the recent successes with business development of the applicants, their personality when networking and dealing with clients, and their ability to really understand your industry and product.
  • What have they learned in past jobs? They may not have a signed piece of paper officially announcing they’ve learned new skills, but have they? Explore their past jobs, technologies they used, and their successes.  Perhaps they received on-site training from industry experts or attended conferences and seminars from leaders in the field.
  • Are they trainable? Continuing with the previous point, if you’re dealing with an ambitious person who loves to learn new things, it may not matter that they skipped post-secondary education. If there’s potential for them to learn and you’re willing to train them, hiring that person could get you a very loyal employee.
  • What education does the applicant have? If the applicant has some formal education but it doesn’t match your requirements, don’t put their resume in the shredder.  Explore what they do know. Perhaps the basic skills they need to be successful in that role are still there.  Also consider the institute.  In the same way that there are Universities handing out shabby degrees, many other schools are awarding certificates that come with above-average credentials.
  • Do you want to save money? It’s accepted in today’s economy that people with higher education receive higher compensation. You can use that to your advantage when negotiating with a candidate who lacks that degree.

If a degree, certification, or any other piece of education is truly necessary to the job, then by all means, include it in your job posting. But be sure to think twice.  It would be a shame to discourage great applicants, or rule out qualified professionals, simply because they’re missing a few letters at the end of their name.  What do you think?  Is education a deal breaker when you’re looking for applicants?

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