Skip degree inflation: Why hiring managers can drop college degree requirements

Degree inflation is preventing employers from tapping into an experienced and overlooked talent pool.

Individual in a plaid shirt shakes hands with another person across the table

With just 33% of Americans having a bachelor’s degree and growing degree inflation (the rising demand for degrees for jobs that previously didn’t require one), now is the time to rethink education requirements in your job descriptions.

Nine out of ten employers report being ready to accept non-college graduates and provide job training in lieu of educational requirements. However, some researchers say that very few employers are actually taking the step and hiring those candidates. Looking for skills, not necessarily degrees, can seem like a daunting addition to the hiring process, but there are plenty of ways to tap into this valuable but overlooked talent pool. Tech behemoth IBM has pioneered this movement, hiring people from diverse backgrounds like baristas, dog trainers, and nurses, and training them to take on very different roles. Nickle LaMoreaux, Chief Human Resources Officer for IBM, explains:

“When you break down what people actually do every day, whether it's software development, or digital design testing, or security, or even artificial intelligence, you have to ask if that role needs a four-year degree or it's a set of skills that's needed.”

LaMoreaux points to one example in particular: By necessity, retail store managers are pros at interviewing job candidates. While they may lack traditional educational requirements for a recruiter or HR role, their skills seamlessly transfer to human resources. 

How to recruit talent with the right job experience

There are more than 70 million Americans who have become skilled through alternative routes like on-the-job training, certification programs, and military experience. Finding talent with the right job experience will mean revamping your recruitment techniques. 

Look further down the talent pipeline

One strategy IBM uses to find people with skills equivalent to a bachelor’s degree is to turn to younger talent, who you can train (and retain for decades). The company targets high school students through their partnership with the New York City educational system. Offering internships and other opportunities for students creates a direct pathway for employment and allows your company to train for specific and much needed skills. 

Use a staffing agency

The majority of HR vetting and screening software relies on education as a proxy for finding the right candidates – and eliminating unqualified ones. However, if an applicant has the right transferable skills but not the right degree, they can be unfairly dismissed from the hiring process. A staffing agency can recruit those with the equivalent experience of a bachelor’s degree and search for employees with the skills needed for your industry. (Check out our staffing solutions and we’ll work to find you the best-qualified talent.)

Consider certifications in lieu of education requirements 

With the popularity of online courses rising and the interest in four-year colleges waning, companies are valuing certifications more than diplomas. No industry is a better example of this than the tech sector, with businesses hiring programmers who have taken training courses/coding bootcamps and yet hold no formal degree in computer science. 

And some companies are even developing their own training programs. Google, the largest name in tech, created Grow with Google, a free professional certification program targeted at noncollege-educated workers. Trainees come in making about $30,000 a year and leave with contracts at prestigious companies making upwards of $70,000 a year. 

Identify the skills you can train for (and the ones you can’t) 

Training a new HR manager to use your digital tools might take an additional week or two of onboarding. However, training someone on the intuitiveness and communication skills needed to interview job candidates and determine if they’re a good culture fit? Those particular skills take years to develop. 

In today’s tight labor market where great talent is hard to come by, excluding those without a bachelor’s degree will only make your hiring woes worse. Look at your job descriptions closely, and ask yourself what hard and soft skills are essential for the role – and what can you train for.

Are you looking to find skilled workers with the right job experience? Adecco has you covered. Whether you need temporary staff or direct hires, our extensive list of qualified recruits means we can find the right person with the right skills for the job – regardless of education level. 

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