Your Next Top Hire Didn’t Graduate From College

May 31, 2016 Tim Sackett

For decades, the thing you knew for sure you were going to have on your job description was under the “Education” section. It was the easiest part to fill out: “This position will ‘require’ a bachelor’s degree in…”

Sometimes we even ramped it up and required a master’s degree! It became widely understood that we started looking at a bachelor’s degree as the new high school diploma. It seemed like you couldn’t even be trusted with putting a Happy Meal together unless you had a college degree.

Recently, seemingly out of nowhere, some really big companies have started eliminating the educational requirements on their job descriptions they’d formerly used as a way to screen out talent. Deloitte, Ernest & Young, Penguin Random House, and many others have all made this change to a number of positions in their organizations in the past year — positions in which a degree used to be mandatory.

So, why is this happening?

The data is telling these organizations something very important: A degree is just one piece of a potentially very large puzzle you’re trying to piece together when making great hires for your organization. That’s not to say that college grads aren’t desirable hires; they’ll still be the majority of hires all of these organizations make. But the fact remains: Organizations can no longer eliminate a talent pool based on one factor.

There are so many factors that make a great hire. For years, it was believed that that one common factor was a college degree. And while it’s true that having a college degree demonstrates a number of factors that contribute to job performance and specific skills, organizations are finding that many of these skills can also be found in candidates who didn’t graduate from college.

What are those attributes organizations are looking for?


Some of the most creative minds get stymied by traditional education and don’t perform well in those settings, yet they perform extremely well when asked to be a part of an innovative team or project.

Strong Work Ethic.

I speak with executives at companies every week that say, “Tim, just get me someone who will show up every day and work their butt off, and we’ll teach them the rest!” Unfortunately, this is a harder-to-find skill in our society than you can ever imagine.

Cognitive Ability.

Pure intelligence. Do they get it or not? Like creativity, many highly intelligent people get bored in a traditional educational setting. Assessing cognitive ability with today’s technology and assessments has become relatively easy. Graduating from college doesn’t guarantee you’re intelligent. It just says you took some classes, paid a bunch of money, most likely learned a bunch of stuff, and got a piece of paper. For most professions, you’ll never use the majority of what you learned in college in your actual career.

There are so many more factors, but these three are a few of the biggest employers are seeking. Does this mean the death of higher education? Absolutely not! Higher education is still the main track for people who want to increase their skill set and improve their knowledge in certain areas.

Talent isn’t an all or nothing game, and many organizations are discovering that as talent gets harder and harder to come by, they need to reach deeper into the pool to find some of those diamonds in the rough.

Or, at least diamonds that didn’t go to college.

Find college grads who have more than a pretty piece of paper: Turn to CareerBuilder College Recruiting Analytics to get essential data that will help you find college graduates with the right skills for your open jobs.


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