Should Companies Look Past Candidates' College Degrees?

Traits like curiosity and loyalty can say a more about a candidate than a college degree.
Posted at 8:32 PM, Sep 26, 2018

Educational diversity is another way businesses can add variety and depth to their staffing bench. That's hiring employees who represent a mix of backgrounds — a broad range of universities, colleges, degrees, apprenticeships. 

In other words, intentionally looking beyond a company's go-to pipeline. Instead, seeking out candidates who aren't cookie cutter but who are qualified. It works with — not in place of — traditional diversity goals of age, race, gender, disability, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

A recent study by Deloitte found Gen Z — the newest group entering the workforce, born after 1995 — ranks "educational diversity" as their top priority for diversity in the workplace. And it has major upsides for businesses, experts say. It help avoid "group think," bringing different voices and approaches to problem-solving, staff meetings and planning.

Diversity in general pays off. It has been found to result in stronger profits, stronger participation from team members and better retention of employees.

Achieving educational diversity comes down to some practical ideas, according to ProSky, a website that tracks hiring trends:

Step 1: Simply delete "degree in related field" from job postings. A political science degree-holder might be great at sales. An anthropology student might be a more keen observer of human subjects than an English major. Don’t forget a person is applying.  A candidate who was passionate about an unrelated degree might very well become passionate about the company that hires him. It's called curiosity and loyalty.

Educational diversity doesn't have to even involve college. Studies show that some positions calling for a bachelor's degree can be successfully filled by people with apprenticeships. Some companies in the tech industry already hire new employees who don’t have four-year degrees.

IBM, for example, is doing some recruiting based on skills people who have proved their technical chops is other ways, like certifications. They might even be video game aficionados. Intel is another example; one program focused on giving community college students internships.

Educational diversity would shift priorities for a lot of companies in a number of industries who pride themselves on nabbing top talent. There's a level of comfort that comes with recruiting from the same schools over and over. But gold-plated degrees don't guarantee goodness.