Imagine you want to fulfill a role. A resume comes on your desk and the person checks every box. They have experience, certifications and all the knowledge, skills and abilities to do a great job.
You would absolutely bring this person in for an interview!
But maybe your applicant tracking system got them out. Or your recruiter has already pressed decline. Why would this happen? Because this candidate didn’t have one completely irrelevant skill: a bachelor’s degree.
An experienced HR professional with a Professional in Human Resources (PH) certification and solid credentials shared this experience:
Yesterday I tried to apply for a position for which I was overqualified and was first asked if I had a bachelor’s degree. When I clicked “no”, I was immediately taken to a page that read “After careful assessment of your qualifications, we have decided to move on to another candidate”. I hadn’t even entered a letter of my name before I was rejected.
This company turned down the candidate before it even knew anything about their qualifications. All the company knows is that they don’t have a bachelor’s degree.
While most companies are not quite upfront about this discrimination, many will reject candidates without a degree. This is why it’s bad for business.
18-23 are not the most critical years in your life
We call these ‘traditional students’. They start college right after high school and graduate in the next 4-5 years. Yes, you learn a lot in college, but you also learn a lot when you don’t go to college.
It doesn’t make sense to tell someone with ten years of experience that their experience doesn’t count because they weren’t in college at that time. You should be looking for skills, not where they were right after high school.
Degrees are simply proxies for knowledge, skills and abilities
What do you care if someone has a diploma? Because it is easier to confirm a degree than it is for the candidate to take tests to prove that they can read, write and think at the level required to graduate.
A diploma is a proxy – something you use to confirm something else. You want to know if the person has what it takes to do four years of work, write papers, and do some advanced math — maybe. But there are many ways to evaluate that. Four years of consistent work also shows that the candidate can achieve goals. A portfolio or writing test can show whether they can write at the level you need.
By focusing on the diploma (especially companies that each diploma), do not test you for the knowledge, skills and abilities you need. You have an admissions committee and university teachers (not everyone who lectures is a professor) assess students for you.
Here’s a little secret: I taught teacher training when I was in graduate school. Do you know what my university has done to prepare me for this? They told me the class titles. That is it. I had just graduated, got teaching titles and was told to teach. No support from professors. Only me.
Don’t assume those As came from professors who knew how to grade students.
Diversity is important
Did you know that not every group goes to university at the same rate? The young adults going to college look very different when you break it down by race. In 2016, this percentage of young adults entered university.
- 58 percent of Asians
- 42 percent of whites
- 42 percent of mixed race
- 39 percent of Hispanics
- 36 percent of blacks
- 21 percent of Pacific Islanders
- 19 percent of natives of India and Alaska
Add to that, the dropout rate is high, and it is highest for first-generation students† Seventy-five percent of people who enroll in college and then drop out are first-generation college students. And students from high-income families ($100,000 or more adjusted gross income) are 50 percent more likely to graduate than students from low-income families.
If you reject people without a diploma, you reduce the chance of improving the diversity of the workforce.
Are diplomas necessary?
If you need to hire a doctor, degrees and licenses are required. If you’re looking to hire a chemical engineer, it’s doubtful you’ll find someone qualified without a degree in chemical engineering. But if your requirement is simply a degree, you probably shouldn’t have a degree at all.
What you want is someone who can do the job. Of course, a degree is an excellent thing, but don’t turn down someone who doesn’t have one if they have the required experience. You can gain knowledge elsewhere – online classes, certificates and work experience all add up.
Take the time to review all candidates, even those without a degree. You have nothing to lose except the few seconds it takes to evaluate a resume, and your company has everything to gain.