Expanding the hiring pool

By Phil Hui-Bon-Hoa, March 10, 2021

We’ve all heard it before: “go to college, so you can get a good job.” But does getting a college degree really matter to employers? And, more importantly, does getting a college degree actually correlate to better job performance and success?

A good education ≠ A good employee

The reality is that a candidate’s college degree—or lack thereof—provides only a 1% predictive ability for on-the-job success.

According to a reputed 2016 study conducted at the University of Iowa (“The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in personnel Psychology”), “among those who apply to get a particular job, years of education does not predict future performance on that job very well.”

This isn’t to say that college is useless, or that universities can’t give their students specific skills or knowledge.

Instead, the point is that, according to the data, college education doesn’t give graduates the experience and training to be successful on-the-job.

So why do employers focus on education?

As recruiters give resumes the standard six-second resume scan, it turns out that education is a main area of focus.

This underscores the fundamental assumption that “good education produces good employees.”

In reality, this assumption is nothing more than cultural conditioning.

For instance, Ken Robinson, Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell and other influential business/cultural gurus have long maintained that traditional education is broken, and they’re producing solutions to give young people options beyond a four year university.

Even Tony Wagner, expert-in-residence at Harvard’s Innovation Lab agrees: “the world of education revolves around test and test scores. That’s not how the adult world works. Some argue that what kids need is more education, and… [we believe] that what they need is a different education.”

The takeaway is that, yes, it’s important to critically evaluate any job candidate on the basis of future job performance—That’s what hiring is all about.

However, instead of assuming that a college degree will equate with workplace performance, we need to assess candidates on the more qualitative attributes—perseverance and grit—that make winning teams.

The idea that graduating from college automatically makes a candidate “better” than candidates who didn’t go to college is ludicrous. It’s time to say goodbye to the “college degree prerequisite.”

Expanding the hiring pool

This emphasis on education credentials means that people without that “college edge” often find themselves on the outside looking in.

The people switching careers, the people without degrees, the single mother or father trying to raise kids and find a job, or the people who’ve just been dealt a tough hand—these are the folks whom the current “system” isn’t designed to support.

And, without the validation stamp of a college degree, they often struggle to get a foot in the door.

The reality is that, as college prices skyrocket, many people simply don’t want to strap themselves with massive amounts of student debt; instead, they’re opting to directly enter the workforce.

These people might not have certain privileges or advantages, but they’re hungry. One of the biggest advantages that many of these candidates bring to the table is their real-world experience and their drive to succeed.

It’s time to change the way we evaluate job candidates; it’s time to expand the hiring pool to include people who, thus far, have been left out.

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