Help Wanted. Over-education a must, lack of relevant experience a strong plus.

When was the last time you looked for work, or just looked at job postings in general? How many called for, at the minimum, a bachelor’s degree? Did you stop and look at the job itself and wonder whether the job was something that really called for a 4-year degree?

As an HR Pro (I use the term loosely), I run across this from time to time. Folks will want to post a job and the first thing that pops in their mind as they are thinking about requirements is “College Degree.” Entry level bottle washer? We need a 4-year degree. As I have studied this, I have come to the conclusion that often times this is not so much about the training or knowledge that the degree imparts, as it is about the biases that the hiring manager has towards the person that he or she visualizes in his or her mind. For example, someone with a college degree is going to be more professional, right? Of course! I have never had someone who is degreed ever do anything stupid. Or, someone with a college degree is going to have more grit because obtaining a degree is hard work, right? Sure. I’ve never run into a degreed slacker. On the flip side, do you think it is possible that you, as a hiring manager, could overlook a (very) qualified candidate simply because they don’t have that diploma? How important is that degree to you? Is it essential? A nice-to-have? Maybe you just slapped it on there because you wanted to “upgrade the position.”  

“I hear ya Jim, and you know what? My HR Pain in the Patooty already told me the same thing, so we made the degree preferred, so we’re good.” Yeah, but how many people without a degree aren’t going to give you the time of day? How many perfectly qualified, but non-degreed candidates are going to look at that job posting, see college degree and stop there? Or maybe they do see that it is preferred, but they figure they will be in the minority so why not move on? 

Now there are some jobs where, due to licensing or the nature of the work, a degree would either be a necessity or at least a good indicator of success. Medical doctors, for instance, have to be licensed. I for one do not want to go to someone who tells me that they did not go to medical school, but did get lots of “on the job training.” I will pull myself up off the paper covered chair and hoof it on out the door, quite possibly with my pants tucked under my arm.  

So what I am I suggesting? Consider very hard how important that degree really is to you and the success of the position. Are you hiring a highly specialized position? Or maybe one which requires extensive licensing? In these cases, you may need that degree, or at least truly prefer it. If you are hiring an HR blogger on the other hand, any schmuck with a cardboard sign will do. Which reminds me, are you hiring?

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