4 Reasons You Should be Open to Ditching Degree Requirements When Hiring

Bachelor’s degree strongly preferred.

Must have a BA or higher in the field.

You see these lines in job descriptions all the time, and have likely written something similar yourself. A degree requirement is a way of setting a baseline qualification and narrowing the field in a preliminary way. And in some fields it’s necessary—after all, if you’re hiring an engineer or a medical professional, you need to make sure they have the right training. But if you’re hiring for a job that doesn’t explicitly call for a specific degree in a specific field, should you think about ditching those lines in the job description? After all, according to the Pew Research Center, only 16 percent of college grads believe that college fully prepared them for a well-paying job. Here are four reasons why you should consider it.

1. Not having a requirement does not equal lower standards

There may be a perception that not asking for a degree leaves the door open for applicants who might not be qualified for the position, wasting both your time and theirs as you look for the right fit. Think of it is broadening your standards. You can still consider “equivalent experience” or make specific recommendations about what criteria the applicants should have.

2. You could be missing out on skills and experience

Let’s say you have a candidate who never finished a four-year degree, but has been working in a relevant field for the past 15 years, accumulating the level of skills and experience you want. If he sees the job description and notes that a minimum degree is required, he might not apply for the job, despite having the guts of what you want. Making the degree requirement more flexible means that you’re focusing on context for hiring, not necessarily the looks-good-on-paper criteria. Why limit your hiring and recruitment pools when you don’t absolutely have to?

3. Degree inflation is very real

Does your future hire truly need a college degree? Or are you including that requirement because it’s the thing to do? This is the essence of “degree inflation,” or setting degree requirements for jobs that would not have required them before. This is often the case in junior or entry-level jobs especially. By making the degree requirement dependent on the job itself, and not a blanket policy, can help you determine which jobs actually need a degree holder, and which ones just need people with the correct skills/experience/potential.

According to a recent study by Harvard Business School, there are more than 6 million jobs in the U.S. that are subject to degree inflation. In turn, this eliminates millions of candidates who might not hold a degree, but are otherwise qualified for entry- or mid-level jobs. Given that only about one-third of American adults hold a four-year degree, this puts unnecessary limitations on jobs that could otherwise be filled by qualified people.

4. Nontraditional recruiting is the next big thing

More and more, companies value strict metrics like a specific degree less than things like speed of learning or adaptability. By opening up the degree requirement, you give your team more power to look at candidates holistically, rather than figuring out which boxes they check off. Companies like IBM have recruiting programs specifically tailored to nontraditional candidates and talent pools, focusing on potential rather than resume-ready requirements.

Relaxing rigid degree requirements may not work in all recruitment and hiring situations, but it’s worth your while to think about how much a particular job genuinely needs a degree, and how you can use job requirements to find the best fit for the job—regardless of whether or not they hold that diploma.

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