GUEST BLOG: Which is more important when hiring? College Degrees or Career Experience

The past few years have seen a shift back to an “Employer Led” market. With the exception of just one or two sectors such as IT, the ball is very much in the employer court.

So how have employers responded to this favourable environment?  What if anything has really changed? One thing for certain is that employee reward expectations have changed and employers are generally keeping a tight control on company finances.

Having said that, an interesting development has emerged led by Ernst and Young in the UK. In 2015, they decided to abandon the college degree for UK applicants applying to join the company. This was shortly followed by the UK branch of publisher Penguin Random House. So a) is this a new trend for employers and b) is it really a wise decision?

Part of the justification for this change rests with the fact that there is now such an abundance of smart, talented people in the labour market who have never graduated from college. An additional promoter of this change is Laszlo Bock, the former Head of HR at Google and author of the bestseller Work Rules!. In a 2013 interview with The New York Times, he revealed that the proportion of Google employees without any college education had increased through the past number of years.

Bock said that “after two or three years, your ability to perform is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different and that fundamentally you are a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently.”

So if you accept this recruitment approach and cease looking at college degrees as a key differentiator when hiring, what other areas should you be looking at when hiring?

For starters, we need to look at recruiting differently and the first focus area that merits employer attention is problem solving. Virtually every role has a problem solving dimension to it. That’s why good problem solvers make great employees. In both your application and interview processes, ask candidates to tell you about obstacles they’ve overcome and specific problems they’ve solved. This information can provide two valuable insights into new hires. First, you see how they respond to real life issues. Second, you see what types of challenges are important to the candidates.

Secondly, we should look at positivity. If a candidate can only find negative things to say about former employers, it’s only a matter of time before he/she feels the same way about your company, no matter how great it is.

A third area worth exploring is learning. What have candidates learned from their life/career experiences to date? What mistakes have they made and what have they learned from these experiences.

A further focus area worth exploring is the candidate’s career experiences as this can provide employers with candidates who are generally more flexible, can switch roles more easily and are frequently more resilient and adaptable.

Finally, two other areas also worth exploring are a) emotional intelligence as this will tell employers how they interact with others and b) employee referrals are helpful in that employees will generally only recommend candidates who are strong performers as it could potentially reflect badly on them is they underperform.

Whether your company opts for a degree led or career experience approach in terms of recruitment, it is widely accepted that the best employers today are the ones who are constantly reviewing/amending their recruitment tools to ensure that they hire the best candidates. 

About Niall Glynn

Niall Glynn & Associates Limited was established in 2010 to provide Business Solutions and HR Advice to companies and Senior Executives. 

Our approach is to work closely with Senior Executives in a confidential way and coach them to both prepare and overcome any barriers in terms of achieving their future career goals / ambitions.  

We also help SMEs improve their business performance by successfully implementing tailored Core HR Processes and Business Performance Improvement Models. 

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