Wanted: Hardworking, Personable, Honest, and Curious Person; No College Required

If someone came along that had these qualities, and no college degree, it seems to me that such a person would still be fully capable of handling the demands of many jobs.

However, such individuals are often not given the opportunity to pursue such jobs becuase many employers require applicants to have a college degree.

As pointed out in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, some 70% of the employers surveyed by the Rockefeller Foundation and Edelman Intelligence, a division of the public-relations firm, indicated that they screen entry-level applicants’ resumes for bachelor’s degrees. Meantime, 40% of companies complained that high employee turnover is the result of workers feeling overqualified for their beginning roles. Most of the recent college grads confirmed that their jobs tapped skills they picked up outside of school.

In other words, employers often list a college degree as a requirement for many jobs that the employees believe do not require such a degree.

Employers rely on college degrees because they often signal applicants possess so-called soft skills, like dedication or resilience—attributes that can be harder for employers to measure than technical skills, according to Matt Sigelman, chief executive of Burning Glass Technology, a labor-market analysis firm. Sigelman suggests that personality tests may be more effective in evaluating ones’ ability to do a job than simply having a college degree.

Matthew Bidwell, a management researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, says employers may be “up-credentialing” job requirements in places like large metropolitan areas and university towns to control the number of applicants. There is some data to back up such an assertion.

In a report by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Atlanta,  economists found that employers’ education preferences often vary by region for the same job. Job listings for online customer support staffers in Atlanta were 22% more likely to ask applicants for bachelor’s degrees than postings in Charleston, South Carolina, according to the research.

Requiring a college degree is a way of narrowing the number of applicants, but it’s also a great way to get a lot of overqualified people for a position, which leads to turnover.

Requiring a degree is also a way of preventing some highly capable individuals of even getting their foot in the door.

So what we need are for employers to be more honest and more realistic in what the actual job requirements are for all of their job openings. If they find someone who has the requirements noted in the title of this blog (Hardworking, Personable, Honest, and Curious), then that person should be given the opportunity, regardless of whether that individual has a college degree or not.

Can you imagine if Steve Jobs went to apply for a job at Apple today in new product development? Such a position might require at a minimum bachelor’s degree, but preferably a master’s degree.

And what if Bill Gates tried to join Microsoft  as a programmer, without any degree? Once again, Bill may have been shut out in the first round of interviews.

I admit there are several jobs that truly do require a college degree, but that number is much smaller than employers would like to admit.

So I ask employers to open their doors to all those individuals who may be capable of performing a job at a high level, despite a lack of a college degree.

Who knows, that person could be the next Steve Jobs, Bill Gates.

Or just another hardworking,personable, honest, and curious person who can make a difference at your firm.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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