Should Employers Still Require College Degrees?

Recently, Wall Street Journal has published an article and the title explains it all: Some CEOs Suggest Dropping Degree Requirements in Hiring.

This is a realistic perspective we are looking at since many college graduates are coming out with a degree and no job, while employers are having a hard time filling certain entry-level positions as well as higher-level positions due to unrealistic job descriptions that make it a competitive job market for many.

Should degrees be immaterial? Because the focus should be on hiring the right person. In many cases, degrees are seen as a petty economic development scheme and that is the belief on how much talent gets passed up. There is a saying in the HR world, “I can teach you the treasury and payments pieces you need. The things I’m looking for are not taught in school.” However, many HR staff nowadays are not qualified to sift through applicants to find the right candidate, but only the right keywords. This calls for a need to change the practices and lower the keyword bar to allow more applicants to be seen.

This trend doesn’t apply to all fields however, since for instance, the tech world’s insatiable demand for tech workers and coders. Tech giants like Amazon has never required a degree for line workers in their distribution centers. There will always be the discussion of providing skill training or education in colleges and career preparatory schools.
Also, for STEM field. Will corporations train workers only on the niche requirements of the job?

Here is something to consider, if CEOs and hiring managers were to drop degree requirements — this will require manager conditioning since they link it to the likeliness of the success of an individual in a particular role. Many individuals have graduated with a degree but have never directly worked in their field of study as long as they have the applied skills and meet their requirements/qualifications, which questions the relevance of a degree.

Here is how others have been responding to this topic and this resonates with a lot of employers and job seekers.

  1. “College degrees have long been used to screen in and screen out prospective employees. Diversity issues aside, removing the requirement theoretically would certainly open up the talent pool for candidates. For employers, not requiring a degree would address the labor shortage across industries.

    On the flip side, people with degrees have also found it challenging to get hired. In reality, people even with the right skills and experiences have challenges finding employment which goes beyond the degree/no degree topic.

    The real problem is that employers have done themselves and workers a huge disservice with unrealistic job descriptions and hiring practices. Much of this has been done to combine multiple roles into as few as possible, while others have wage levels that hinder recruitment. Then on top of that, the business of hiring has gradually lost the human touch with an over-reliance on automated screening tools. Unless you use the right words, phrases or even the right font, you’re screened out.

    While degree/no degree is an interesting issue, the change needs to go deeper into hiring practices.”
  2. “I’ve been gainfully employed for over 25 years without a 4 year degree, until this strange time of Covid. I’ve never experienced the challenges this time is seeing with the automation, key word and degree requirements which have made job searching a heart wrenchingly difficult experience with very little ability to by-pass the ‘Black-Hole’ that these systems have created, despite having a Master’s Degree level of hands on experience. It is a huge dis-service to organizations needing to full positions and the economy.”
  3. “An ‘overhaul’ of recruitment/hiring practices is very much needed, as in this area new technologies have made it impossible for anyone to show their worth. Algorithms are destroying job prospects and careers before they’re even started. We are reduced to key words and phrases instead of people.”
  4. “When I was looking for a role I quickly realized that some major corporations have outsourced their recruiting to the lowest bidder, which doesn’t always produce the best outcomes.

    Then there is the infamous ATS. It was disheartening to know that human eyes weren’t reviewing my resume, now the algorithm decides whether I would make it to the next round based on the number of times the exact keyword shows up in my CV.

    I feel that some companies use frightening job duties and requirements to thin the applicant pool. I have abandoned applications due to the 30 bullet points on roles and responsibilities that didn’t sync with the salary and I didn’t want to work 14 hours a day.

    Dropping degree requirements and training people for career progression on the job is a great start, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
  5. “I feel there are too many ‘requirements’ on most job postings today; even if you do have a degree it may be in a different major, or if you have experience it’s not enough experience, etc.
    Many job postings intimidate potential applicants, not to mention force marginalized people to attend for profit schools (VERY expensive vs. state schools), while accumulating massive debt because they are easier and faster to get into than a private or state school where you need transcripts, essays, recommendations, etc.
    Most working adults don’t have the time or resources to even start the process, not the mention the ability to take classes in person (state/private were late in offering virtual learning programs.”
  6. “The arbitrary rules regarding college requirements for most of the entry-level positions created by outdated systems that no longer reflect our society hasn’t made sense for quite some time. In addition to these requirements, we often ask for candidates to have 2-3 years in experience that many wouldn’t have. It’s truly hard to address the gap in opportunity if some of the world’s most prominent employers aren’t rethinking their stance.”
  7. “Can’t wait for them to drop the ‘mandatory required’ 3-5 years of prior experience at appear in most entry level positions. A real barrier to entry is not the degree, it’s the ‘requirements’ that are out of step with the duties of the position and are used as a way to acquire skilled labor without training or workforce development investment.”
  8. “Having a degree doesn’t make you more intelligent than someone without. Many people moving up in a company gain valuable experience but at some point can reach the glass ceiling of ‘degree’.
    There seems to be many glass ceilings a company can implement to create the illusion of talent but in effect it is exclusivity.
    A degree doesn’t make you a harder worker, more dedicated worker, a worker that has the innate capability to solve problems or even the desire to take on challenges and find solutions.
    A degree is just a piece of paper to create a hurdle to jump over or a way to narrow the interview process and candidates.
    Many people without degrees start their own company doing work they were not allowed to get compensated for from a corporation.”
  9. “To me we wouldn’t be having this conversation if the cost of higher education was controlled, because I think we can all agree that more education is better than less. I don’t think the answer is necessarily don’t require degrees, but rather create opportunities for people to get them more affordably and maybe even faster. It can be done if we all believe in it. Free community college. Low interest rates on federal loans. Innovative fast track programs. And probably many other things that I cannot think of right now.”
  10. “I see this as a double edged sword. For many places it is simply gatekeeping as a barrier to entry since I have always assumed that the reason for requiring a bachelor’s degree of a candidate was some sort of proof that you can accomplish a task. On the flip side of the coin I have a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership. There are many jobs that are asking people to have a master’s degree and then only wanting to pay $15 an hour.”
  11. “In some ways, the college degree has historically functioned as a screening device in the workplace rather than a realistic determinant of a job candidate’s ability. Dropping the requirement for a college degree for certain jobs makes sense, and could broaden opportunities considerably for job entrants. However, our primary educators must get the job done. They need to prepare their young students with the foundational skills needed to adapt to the demands of career.”
  12. “What do you look for in an individual? Can you coach ‘passion’? Can you learn ‘work ethic’ from having a 4 year degree? What is the future benchmark for a highly successful hire?”
  13. “Some of the smartest, most capable people I’ve known in my career didn’t have a degree. Clearly it matters in many instances, but certainly not at all. Attitude can’t be taught but in many cases aptitude can be.”
  14. “This would place the responsibility of preparing students, for the workforce, back on high schools. I’m all for that but it is going to require a reegineering of our public school systems. I teach at the undergraduate level and I feel many times that I am doing what should have been done in high school. Also, will these same CEOs make a commitment to entry level talent development programs to ensure employee retention and growth? It is time to look at higher education and job placement in a total systems approach, not as silos.”
  15. “Although the sentiment is dead-on, I would urge organizations to consider whether or not the job(s) in question is/are the starting point for a career progression that indeed does necessitate such a requirement (e.g. Bachelor’s, Master’s, etc.). If an organization hires an employee lacking in the future requirements at the time of hire, what strategies are in place to ensure that the employee(s) are qualified for the higher roles when the time comes. Corporate educational assistance budgets appear to have taken a hit — if not nonexistent — but can play an important role in succession planning. Education isn’t always the panacea it’s made out to be, but lack of education can also be of equal importance.”

With companies having their own operating systems, that are for the most part different from the degree, the path forward is that they should teach what they are doing with far greater success than the other.

Things That You Should Never Leave Out On Your Resume

Image via inChemistry
You may want to refer to the source as well, where they discuss the top 10 early career resume mistakes.

These are common things I want to briefly highlight some resume advice for folks who typically miss out on the important details.

✎ Add a section called SKILLS. Many job seekers forget to do that. This section is just as important as your work experience and education. Here, you would put the names of the software and apps SPECIFICALLY that you use well and that you’re proficient with.

✬ E.g. Microsoft Office is too general as many only just list that. Expand on it – do you use MS Publisher, MS Access, MS One Note, One Drive, Teams, and SharePoint as well? These are also part of the MS Office Suite, and some are critical business tools as well.  So, list out the all the tools used by name. 

What about social media tools? Skype or Skype for Business, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter?  The list goes on, but you should list the ones you use. If you have a LinkedIn profile, add it to your resume – if not, be sure to create one and start to network there if you’re looking for jobs. This is a good thing to show employers as they can see beyond your resume. According to Zety, “a recent study says that up to 40% of employers may not consider interviewing you at all if they can’t find your LinkedIn profile.”

Please also keep in mind that hiring managers also look at “crossover skills”… that is what OTHER skills do you bring as shown on your resume? — Does your resume show a history of consistently sticking to your goals? Do you stay on jobs for short-term or long-term? You want to be mindful of that because if you are selected to the interview — During the interview, did you come across as teachable and focused on success, or “just need a job” attitude? If you don’t know what crossover skills you should include, you may want to refer to 8 Crossover Skills You’ll Need Whether You Go To College Or Not.

EDUCATION – Just list your most recent education. If you have attended a college/university, please do not forget to include what your major is. This is especially helpful for employers to know when you are applying for a job in a specific field.

Note: High school graduates, College students and recent graduates often include their GPA in their resume. However, if you are worried about a low GPA, simply leave it off your resume. You can still include your school, graduation date, and any awards received.

If you are still attending high school, or you are currently an undergraduate in college, or if a high school diploma is your highest degree, you can include your high school information. To save space and time, there is no need to include your high school if you have completed higher education. It is only relevant if you have graduated from high school and are not planning to attend college or a university.

However, once you complete any other form of education including a training program from a trade school, you should eliminate this HS information from your resume. Your resume should constantly be up to date.

WORK EXPERIENCE – I cannot stress this enough, however job candidates often miss out on the details of “numbers that define” how they did their job. Always use numbers to show how you helped your employer, as that is what many employers want to see.

Remember, list accomplishments/achievements, and not just your duties. Don’t forget to include numbers as well!

“Greet customers” tells me what you do… but not how well you do it; “Managed 50-60 face-to-face customer inquiries daily” tells me both;
“Restocking shelves” tells me what you do… but not how well you do it; “Supported store revenue goals by overseeing 17 aisle inventory consisting of 300 items per shelf” tells me both.
♛ How many team members did you collaborate with? What tasks or goals did you meet together?
♛ Were you involved in monthly, quarterly, or annual cycle count of the inventory at either store?

Don’t forget – employers are looking for candidates who bring the “tools” for success.
❅ E.g. What tools did you use for custodial duties?

✎ For a general resume, what is listed above would be ideal… I want to underscore that. That said, however, with a little more effort on specifics, you’ll be able to transform it into a “powerful personal branding tool”. Your resume is your marketing tool of selling yourself to the employer.

✎ You can also visit O*NET OnLine, where you can point your cursor to Occupation Quick Search and search up “Customer Service Representative” and there, you will find many performance objectives that match up things you also did. Use those to create additional bullets that demonstrate your acquired skills and experience.