As a college graduate I place significant value on education and what it can illuminate in regard to an individual’s work ethic and level of dedication. However, should the lack of a degree be a deal breaker when it comes to taking on a new hire? No, in my opinion, it shouldn’t.
Having earned my Bachelor’s degree from Miami University, and subsequently procuring my MBA from Case Western Reserve, I learned a lot about myself and what kind of commitment it requires to obtain these achievements. Completing over half a decade of schooling requires immense focus, drive, and self motivation, all of which are meaningful attributes for any member of a team to possess. This important aspect of my past and strong belief in education places me in a unique position to provide perspective on why I don’t believe companies should require a Bachelor’s degree.
The Lack of Resources
The education landscape is changing, and obtaining a degree has become a much heftier burden on those that choose to take that route. Tuition in America has skyrocketed, and many gifted and dedicated individuals just don’t have the resources (time & money) to afford a degree. This undeniable roadblock for many young people should no longer be a barrier to success and access to the workforce.
I had an outstanding candidate that I got to know extremely well many years ago. After spending time with him and witnessing first hand the capacity for success that he possessed, I sent him to an interview that I thought he was a great fit for. The company that interviewed him ended up turning him down solely due to his lack of a college degree.
After this occurred, I asked him, “Do you mind if I ask why you didn’t complete your Bachelor’s degree?” He went on to explain to me his particular circumstance which is not uncommon these days. He told me about how he was raised by a single mother, and that his father wasn’t present in his life. His mother suffered a stroke, and at the time of this occurrence he was working a part-time job and going to school full-time. At this time he was forced to make a decision, as he couldn’t take care of his mom and simultaneously go to college. Now let me raise the question, is that the type of dedicated person that you want to hire?
The Changing Workplace Landscape
You may or may not be surprised that I am not the only professional that feels like a college degree shouldn’t make or break a new hire. In fact, there are a growing number of forward thinking companies that are looking for qualifications and determinations of work ethic elsewhere. Companies such as Google, IBM, and Apple are beginning to see the value in people that don’t go to college, yet successfully make their way into the workforce. Many of these individuals are quite exceptional, as it requires a lot to overcome the obstacles placed in your way when you don’t have a degree.
When looking at IBM as an example, they have put a lot of emphasis on initiatives that target talent pools outside of the typical academic pipeline. In fact, upwards of 15% of their new hires don’t have the long-established four-year degrees.
One of my tricks of hiring great salespeople is finding ones that have something to prove, which is one of my favorite reasons why I like hiring those without a Bachelor’s degree. More than likely, they’ve been passed on by several companies in their past because they don’t have a college degree. Many have a “fire in the belly” that they’re going to prove all of those companies wrong that wouldn’t even have a conversation with them. How do you not want to hire somebody like that?
There is no reason why this should be a deal breaker for companies looking to make a new hire. There is a lot that a company can gain from hiring individuals that choose a different path, and many other ways to determine the level of commitment and passion for the job an applicant may have. The best place to start is with an open mind, and a willingness to explore alternative aspects to the qualifications of a potential hire.