In my search for a new position I have run across something that is actually disturbing to me. For most jobs that I read and say “I would do that well!” the very first thing listed under the requirements section is a Bachelor Degree. Then I read all over the place that there is a skills gap in the workplace today and employers are hard-pressed to find candidates that can perform the job. The epidemic is not a gap in the skills as much as it is a gap in pre-screening practices. I understand that some positions require specialized learning like Doctors, Attorneys, some types of engineers, etc. In this post, I am strictly talking about the Technology field. There is a huge disconnect between what recruiters and hiring managers think they are looking for in qualifications and what qualities a great candidate really needs to possess.
So what makes me qualified to even have this discussion?
During the 2 ½ years at Verizon Wireless that I was an Assistant Legacy Store Manager, Legacy Store Manager, and Evolution Store Manager I directly hired over 20 people and interviewed about 100 people. As an Evolution Store Manager I was charged with staffing an entire location and building the entire team before we launched. During my time at US Cellular I directly hired 3 people and interviewed about 15 people. Between Verizon Wireless and US Cellular, I have reviewed over 300 resumes. I have seen everything from extensive resumes that looked more like a curriculum vitae to resumes that looked like a 3rd grader made them for a school project. I was fortunate at Verizon Wireless and US Cellular because HR and the recruiters did a great job of keeping the candidate pre-screening process aligned with what front-line leaders actually needed in their stores.
Is Google Wrong?
Google has been the #1 place to work for years based on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies To Work For. I would say many companies would like to mimic Google’s success. How do they attract the level of talent they need to stay on top? I am sure it is a combination of things, however, one BIG piece in the puzzle is their mindset in pre-screening the right people for the right positions. In an article I read while researching this blog post, I was shocked to find that Google has started hiring more people who didn’t go to college. To add to the fire, the article even states that “After years of looking at the data, Google has found that things like college GPAs and transcripts are almost worthless in hiring. Following these revelations, the company is hiring more and more people who never even went to college.” Huh? I thought the illustrious degree was the only way employers could tell if someone was qualified for a second look at their resume?
The article goes on to discuss how Laslo Block, Google’s Senior Vice President for People Operations, says “The academic setting is an artificial place where people are highly trained to succeed only in a specific environment.”
‘One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer,’ Bock says. ‘You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer. You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.’
After two or three years, performance at college is completely unrelated to performance at Google, because the skills you learn are so different and you change so much, Bock says.” After reading that section, I could literally recall 3-5 times throughout earning my Associate’s Degree I have shown my instructor where the book was outdated based on new developments and was specifically told each time “just answer the question based on what the book says.”
Change Your Perspective On Recruiting
In another article at Harvard Business Review interestingly named “Stop Requiring College Degrees” they discuss the wealth of tests available to employers in today’s world to find out if a candidate is a good fit for a specific position. In addition, with the introduction of MOOC’s – massive, open, online, courses, our education system and way of learning has changed significantly. Out of all the skills, values, experience, etc. that you are seeking in a candidate, a Bachelor Degree should be last on the list.
In another article on Inc.com really analyzing why you are requiring a college degree by Susan Lucas who has over 10 years HR experience, Susan states “You should always look to hire the best person for the job. And that may not always mean the person with the most letters after his name. It means hiring the person who is most likely to excel in that job. If possible, you want to hire someone who would be better at that job than you would, yourself. That’s why you’re hiring someone and not just taking the tasks on yourself.
So when you write that job description, think about the skills needed. Don’t give into the trap of only hiring people with certain degrees. It takes longer, of course, to find the best person and not just the person that some university has stamped as acceptable. And, I’m certainly not advising you to not hire people with degrees. Just that you hire the right person, not the right degree.”
I recently read an article at MOZ explaining some of the challenges agencies specifically face in hiring the right candidates for their team. In that article, Will Critchlow at Distilled talked about 2 main qualities they seek in every candidate:
- Gets things done
With that said, let me pose a question…
If I am smart and can get things done, is there really anything else to it? To me…
Smart means you:
- Know how to challenge yourself
- Are knowledgeable about the job function you are performing
- Understand the big picture
- Have a positive can-do attitude
- Stay in sync with company objectives, culture, and goals
- Are very coachable
- Confident, but not arrogant (confident people are willing to ask for help and take advice when in over their head; arrogant people do not)
Get things done means you:
- Manage your time wisely
- Take initiative when a weakness in your skill set is realized
- Don’t back down from a challenge regardless of the scope
- Understand how to uplift and help team-members to keep things moving
- Have a sense of humor and keep things light, yet focused, when times get tough and deadlines are tight
- Take full ownership of your position and responsibilities
- Understand how you not pulling your weight affects the performance of your entire team
So, if a candidate fits all of those things, where exactly does the Bachelor’s degree come in to play? Please do not mix the message. I know they are a huge accomplishment and require many of the qualities that I mentioned above to complete. The true question is: Can someone possess all of these qualities without having an undergraduate or further degree? YES! At the same time, how does going 10’s of thousands of dollars, if not more, in debt to finish studies in an artificial environment designed to have you memorize what is in a textbook contribute to overall employability? The only way I can think of is proving you are able to finish what you start and stay committed to something. Aren’t there plenty of other ways to prove this?
Are you telling me you wouldn’t have even given a second look at the resume of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or Steve Jobs because they don’t have a Bachelor Degree? What an antiquated way to screen candidates! While training, knowledge, and experience are definitely important in the Tech. industry, are you starting to see where it doesn’t necessarily require a Bachelor Degree? You should be looking for someone that is knowledgeable in the specific skill set required for the position. You should be looking for someone who is smart and gets things done. You should be looking for someone who knows how to take initiative and understands that being in the Tech. industry requires constant learning due to the rate that technology changes. You should be looking for someone who is coachable. You should be looking for someone chomping at the bit to get the opportunity to prove themselves to you.
Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments section below.
Top Tech Industry Leaders with no “Bachelor Degree”
- Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, (Dropped out of Harvard after 3 years)
- David Karp, founder of Tumblr. (Dropped out of school at 15, then home schooled. Did not attend college.)
- Dustin Moskovitz, multi-millionaire co-founder of Facebook. (Harvard dropout)
- Gurbaksh Chahal, multimillionaire founder of BlueLithium and Click Again. (Dropped out at 16, when he founded Click Again.)
- Jake Nickell, co-founder and CEO of Threadless.com. (Did not graduate from college.)
- Jeffrey Kalmikoff, co-founder and chief creative officer of Threadless.com (Did not graduate from college)
- Larry Ellison, billionaire co-founder of Oracle software company. (Dropped out of two different colleges.)
- Michael Dell, billionaire founder of Dell Computers, which started out of his college dorm room. (Dropped out of college)
- Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook. (Dropped out of Harvard)
- Pete Cashmore, founder of Mashable.com at the age of 19.
- Shawn Fanning, developer of Napster. (Dropped out of college at the age of 19.)
- Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, billionaire. (Did not complete college)
- Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, billionaire. (Did not complete college)
- Ted Murphy, founder of social media company Izea Entertainment. (Dropped out of college)
- Theodore Waitt, billionaire founder of Gateway Computers. (Dropped out of college to start Gateway – one semester before graduating)
- Tom Anderson, co-founder and “friend” of MySpace. (Dropped out of high school)
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