Why Employers Should Stop Looking At Degrees

What do Steve Jobs - co-founder of Apple, Richard Branson -  founder of the Virgin group of companies and Dave Thomas - founder of a fast-food empire, Wendy’s, have in common? None of them holds a college degree. Even though these could be a lucky few cases, they do make one wonder about the importance of college degrees – or more precisely, are college degrees even worth it. Let’s take a look at why employers should stop looking at college degrees.

College degrees cannot fully measure the potential of every individual student. What can be learnt with experience cannot be taught in classes. For employers, a job applicant with a college degree is certainly more attractive than one with no degree. So if it’s not degrees that employers should look at, then what is it? Here is a list that might be of some help.

  • Problem Solving Skills: Look for applicants who have solved problems firsthand. Ask them about the obstacles they faced and how they overcame them. This will give you a good insight about the challenge facing abilities of the applicants.
  • Positive Thinking: Notice if the candidate takes on matters positively or has only negative things to say about life experiences and problems at past jobs. The ideal employee would be more focused on learning from even the worst of experiences and looking at things through a positive lens. This kind of positive energy can have a hugely encouraging effect on your team.
  • Diverse Backgrounds: Diversity in a work-place makes for a very healthy learning environment that is inclusive and wholesome for all employees. It goes beyond simple matters of gender and skin color – diversity is about people who come in from different settings and varied backgrounds. This gives you the opportunity to acquire different perspectives and enable innovative thinking.
  • Experience: Nothing teaches better than experience. Candidates who have a long-time experience in a certain field bring a lot of practical knowledge to the mix, regardless of their college degree. People coming in from different fields have unique sets of experiences that can contribute positively to the growth of the organization.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Emotional Intelligence is an interesting concept that revolves around a person’s ability to identify emotions and their effects and use this information to guide their behaviors according to the relevant setting. The more emotionally intelligent an employee is, the more likely are they going to learn from their experiences, think positively and behave as per the organization’s standards.
  • Current Employees: Before you rush off to hiring new people, take an in-depth look at your current employees. Feel free to ask them for recommendations. Since these people have a good idea about the work environment of the company, they might be able to give some valuable advice about who to hire.

To determine in greater detail how people actually feel about college degrees as a measure of capability by employers, we conducted a survey. Following are the responses that were received:

Experience is more valuable than a degree. You don't learn hands on skills in a degree that an employer can’t teach you better.

Joanna Buickians | JBA International


Because degrees are broad, but work is narrow. A degree has very little predictive value.

John Kogan | Illumeo, Inc.


I'm sorry to say this but employers haven't looked at degrees for a long time. Unless it's a prestigious university, they want experience.

Gene Mal | Static Jobs LLC


Why employers shouldn't only value degrees is because degrees tell you nothing about how passionate a person is. Also degrees tell you nothing about the person's work ethic.

Ariel Bakshandeh, Revolutionary Thinking blog


I believe employers should look at skills and previous experience when hiring, and find those people that are adaptable into certain roles that fit their personal career ambitions - whether this person got a degree in Business or a degree in English literature is irrelevant. In the startup world, people in a small team wear a lot of different hats, so having a variety of skills, with a creative mind and a dedication to execute ranks higher than what degree a candidate took; although, a degree (in any subject) from a reputable university does bring its weight in some cases.

ADAM BARKER | CEO and Co-Founder


As both a small business owner and a former adjunct professor, I rarely look at the degrees of prospective employees anymore. Work and volunteer history are much more meaningful in a decision than a diploma from a generic degree factory.

Mike Catania | PromotionCode.org


A job that any quality freelancer can do usually won't require a degree

No one with a four-year degree in journalism will want to spend most of their time writing product reviews even if you give them a fancy title like ecommerce editor. Upwork can get you about the same thing from that freelancer who got an A in high school English class.

Heidi Hecht | Nothing in Particular Blog


Focusing too much on the school and degree when hiring prevents you from building a strong and diverse culture. There are thousands of highly qualified people who have taken a different path towards education or experience but who are just as ready, skilled and motivated.

Dave Lopes | Director of Recruiting at Badger Maps


I believe employers should stop looking at degrees because diversity is important in a modern workplace. Having a diverse group of employees helps establish new and fresh ideas due to the different cultures and backgrounds. Looking at degrees will narrow the group of people the employers can potentially hire.

Lisa Chu | Black N Bianco


By looking at one's degree, you are not able to see into the soul of the person or the capabilities of their future achievements.

Gene Caballero | yourgreenpal.com


Because my degree isn't necessarily a reflection of what I can or want to do. I have an MBA, which is very general. Since obtaining the degree, I have evolved to focus on an area which really was not addressed in even one course. Maybe it's nice to know someone can obtain a degree but there's often a disconnect between what was studied and what the candidate has learned via other channels.

LISA BANKS | Executive Editor - enjuris.com


More and more, college is becoming a place where little minds help other little minds stay little. To find someone with the right skills, state of mind and experience who hasn’t been tainted by the system can be invaluable.

David Moncur | Principal of Moncur Branding


Students can learn many transferable skills, such as leadership and self-reliance, from classes that don't end in a degree. Employers who focus only on formal credentials miss out on the richer educational
background of prospective hires.

Daniel Walton | Communications Coordinator - SOIL(School of Integrated Living)


Why hire someone because they spent 4 years sitting in a class learning from a textbook written 10 years ago when you can hire someone who has 4 years of experience in the real world working in the industry and understands it.

Chris Degenaars | Long Drive Agency


Grades indicate very little about being able to create or work in teams. Extracurricular activities are better indicators of work-life skills.

Rebecca Klemm, PhD


If the customers are happy I don't care how the job gets done as long as it gets done. My employees love the idea that they get to use their brains for creativity, and that there is never a perfect answer to anything. Make it happen and I am a happy boss. No degree required.

Sandy Stein | President - Alexx Inc.


I've had multiple Master's Degree employees underperform and multiple diploma-less employees overperform. What you do is more important than what you know.

Alex Moen | MatchMadeCoffee.com


As you can see, most responses revolve around the importance of experience, actual performance and factors other than college degrees. Maybe it is time employers start focusing on real skills rather than fancy college degrees listed on the resumes.


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