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Would You Hire Someone Who Didn't Go to College?

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff

How crucial is higher education in finding the right talent for your business?

  • Companies are finding that higher education can limit hiring pools and make talent acquisition challenging.
  • Hard skills and job experience are more important than a formal education for many open positions.
  • Besides increasing hiring pools, a company that forgoes the degree requirement is likely to find more viable candidates from diverse backgrounds.

Finding new talent is stressful. You want to find someone who not only works hard and has the right skill set, but whose values align with your company's principles and culture.

With low unemployment, it's a job seeker's market. If you're struggling to find a good fit, you may want to consider widening your pool of applicants to include candidates without a college degree.

Asmaa Lasheen, a business.com community member, asked, "Would you hire someone that didn't graduate from college?" This is an important question for business owners who are trying to build their teams. We asked business owners and career experts to find an answer. Here's what they said.

Find someone with the right skills, experience and attitude.

When you're filling a position, it's important to find someone with the right skills and attitude – regardless of if they have a college degree.

"What's most important when hiring is if the job seeker is the right fit for the employer and if they possess the right skills for that job," said Monster career expert Vicki Salemi.

While a college degree is helpful and important, hands-on experience is typically more valuable, Salemi said. "If a candidate earned a degree in one area but doesn't have any work or internship experience, and another candidate didn't earn a degree but has worked in the type of role they are interviewing for, a company may be more inclined to go with the latter."

Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation, agrees and believes if an applicant has the skills, experience and knowledge, it doesn't matter if they have a degree. "Yes, a college degree proves that a candidate is committed and has a well-rounded education, but that should not trump or invalidate their professional experience if they didn't receive a diploma from an educational institution."

Look for soft skills and call references. 

When you're interviewing candidates, it's important to get a full picture, including their soft skills and how they performed in previous jobs.

"For candidates who don't have a college degree and need to prove themselves to employers, it's important to highlight their teamwork, communication skills, problem-solving, interpersonal skills, work ethic and flexibility/adaptability," said Salemi.

Josh Rubin, CEO of Post Modern Marketing, said about only half of his employees have degrees related to their jobs. When he's hiring employees, the most important factor for him is the quality of their character.

"If you're looking to hire someone who did not attend college, talk to their previous employers and get a sense of what they're like to work with," Rubin said. 

He also recommends not limiting hires based on what they studied in college. "Find out a candidate's long-term goals and what they want to do in the future, and hire based on that."

Pay employees the same regardless of degrees.

If you decide to hire an employee without a degree, you should pay them the same as candidates who did go to college.

"They are not less valuable, nor worth less than someone who did (graduate from college)," Salemi said. "When a candidate is the right fit for a company and its needs, they should be paid equally, not based on degree or which school they did or did not attend."

Tom Wallace, owner of Home Check Inspection, agrees. "When it comes to pay, I pay my employees based on experience, not education. I don't believe in paying people less just because they didn't go to college."

Companies that don't require degrees

A company that hires only bachelor degree holders is limiting its hiring pool. Most college majors are rarely a direct tie-in to an open position within an organization. If a company is finding retention challenging, it could relate to the college degree requirement. Managers should focus more on the person's work experience and skill set. A problem with hiring college graduates only is that the candidates may have limited work experience due to their years of schooling.

According to Glassdoor, on-the-job training matters more than a four-year degree. Corporate training provides the skills the employee needs to succeed in the position. A four-year degree doesn't necessarily focus on the hard skills that a company requires. People are different types of learners. Some thrive in an academic setting, while others do better through active work.

Companies with diversity initiatives may also want to look for workers without college degrees. Hiring only university graduates often provides you with the same demographic. Instead, the company is likely to find an exceptional candidate with vision and drive, but without formal education.

Not all companies can forgo the degree requirement for their open positions. However, unless your company is in need of a medical doctor, CPA or lawyer, you can usually be more flexible with the education requirements listed in your recruitment ads.   

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