3 Reasons Why You Should Hire Candidates Without a College Degree

HR Insights for Professionals

HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Monday, September 23, 2019

A college degree shouldn’t be the largest factor in determining someone's suitability to work for your business. Here are some reasons why companies should expand their hiring practices and consider candidates without a degree.

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A college degree is often a basic requirement for anyone hoping to secure a job. However, what many companies might not realize is, by strictly adhering to this requirement, they could be missing out on some highly talented individuals who could add real value to their organization.

According to the latest data from the US Census Bureau, approximately one-third of American adults hold a college degree. As a result, when companies focus solely on this as a determining factor in whether candidates reach interview, it means they’re effectively ruling out two-thirds of their potential talent pool.

It's understandable that businesses want to ensure they’re taking on the best and brightest in their field, but when the degree is the major qualification to rule someone in or out of getting hired, this can be a stumbling block to success.

Widening the net to attract and assess the largest pool of talent can be highly rewarding for many companies. Here we examine some of the compelling reasons why businesses should expand their hiring criteria and take on candidates without a degree:

1. Develop more diverse teams

When a company focuses too greatly on one aspect or characteristic of the people it hires, this can lead to low levels of diversity and wide-ranging impact across the business. Diversity can therefore be key to improved performance.

Businesses which hire from diverse backgrounds often see higher levels of innovation, as the different perspectives these people bring helps to foster new and interesting ideas. More diverse businesses have also been shown to solve problems faster.

Diversity in hiring can also be great for reputation and be a major factor in attracting and retaining millennial talent. Indeed, research from Deloitte shows that 69% of millennials say they would be willing to stay with a business for more than five years if it offers high levels of diversity.

2. Build strength in depth of experience

Not everyone has the same experiences throughout their lifetime, so don't rule out older candidates who may have vast experience in your field but who never took those formal qualifications.

The wealth of experience of older workers can provide multiple benefits to businesses, such as often being steady and reliable workers, as well as a source of free mentoring for younger staff. At the same time, studies show that older employees demonstrate lower levels of absenteeism, have superior communication skills and are less likely to move on quickly to other roles.

Ultimately, the population is getting older and therefore the proportion of older talent that is available and willing to work is only likely to grow. Companies should be tapping into this valuable resource and not discounting individuals simply because they don’t have a degree.

3. A degree isn't a mark of a good employee

In reality, while a candidate may have achieved excellent marks throughout their education, this is no guarantee they’ll make a good employee. The difference between work and college is immense, so to place such high importance on academic qualifications doesn't always make sense.

Spending four years at college will teach candidates a lot about the theory of the roles they apply for, but these skills are not always applicable in the real world. The expectations of an employee are very different to that of a student and it's always important to bear this in mind.

Finally, everyone learns in different ways, so to always rely on academic performance as an indicator of candidate quality is short-sighted. In many cases, individuals who don’t have a degree will have worked extremely hard to develop the skills they need to be successful on their own. This demonstrates a strong work ethic and the ability to self-motivate, so always consider the individual merits of each applicant before ruling them out.

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