Special Video Edition
Do employers shoot themselves in the foot when they require college degrees, especially for jobs that don’t seem to warrant them? In today’s job market, is it reasonable for an employer to treat a college degree as an indicator of ability to do a job? Or is this people filter just an inadequate proxy for more effective candidate assessment methods?
I’d like to hear your thoughts on these questions. But first, a video to provoke you.
Do college degree requirements promote better hiring?
We’ve discussed the college degree requirement in hiring and getting a job many times in this column. Recently, my good buddy Paul Solman did a segment about the subject on PBS NewsHour: Jobs requiring college degrees disqualify most U.S. workers — especially workers of color. You can watch the segment below, or read the transcript. Yours truly appears briefly at around 3:40.
My contribution to Solman’s story is that perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into the keywords “college degree required.” In general — even if a job really would benefit from a degree — the degree requirement is often just another way for employers to filter what comes out of the digital fire hose of job applicants. In other words, if you don’t have the degree, ignore the requirement, because it serves more to reject you than to select viable candidates.
Pursue the opportunity anyway but, of course, use the methods we discuss here. That is, read the job posting, then don’t apply at all. Instead of meeting the keyword monster in the applicant tracking system (ATS), approach the hiring manager through a trusted contact. In spite of a degree requirement, the manager may conclude your abilities and acumen are sufficient to hire you. The keyword monster will merely spit you out.
In this segment Paul Solman takes another approach on the matter of college degree requirements. He asks, Do they unreasonably filter out good candidates? Do people seeking better-paying jobs really need a degree to get ahead?
Questions for you
I’d like to hear your thoughts and reactions on this NewsHour story.
- In today’s economy, when employers can’t fill jobs, would they do better to eliminate college degree requirements?
- Is vocational training or certification sufficient for an entire career?
- Will the people interviewed in the segment — who all work in computer software — eventually have to get degrees if they want to move up?
- Is Solman’s message valid for welders, pipe-fitters, baristas and bricklayers?
- Has the college degree become just another keyword to aid in rejecting job applicants?
- What do you make of the assertion that un-degreed workers earn 13% less over a lifetime, while those with a degree earn 13% more?
- For those that want to earn as much as degreed people without getting a degree, are there enough such jobs?
- What do you think of the comments about the value of college degrees offered by the philosopher toward the end of the segment?
- If you have a college degree and have been working for some time, do you think your degree has been essential to your career success and income?
- If you don’t have a degree but do have vocational training and are successful at work, do you think at some point your lack of a degree will hurt your career prospects and income?
Questions for employers
Another buddy of mine, Peter Cappelli, is a labor and employment researcher at the Wharton School. His research suggests one of the key reasons employers have difficulty filling jobs is that over the years they’ve dramatically reduced or stopped providing employee training and education.
- If you’re an employer, how do you respond to Cappelli’s findings?
- Can on-the-job training and development substitute for a college degree?
Where does this leave us? How does — or should — education fit into a successful career and earning a good salary? How many more questions like these could you possibly consider after reading this column?