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Does your open position really need a degree?

Does your open position really need a degree?

Some jobs require a degree qualification. Doctors, teachers, and lawyers, for example, use their degree knowledge on a daily basis.

But does every open position really require a degree?

A degree requirement has become something of a staple feature on job ads. According to Harvard Business School, many middle-skills job ads now feature a degree requirement despite most incumbent workers doing the job perfectly well without one.

So what does this spell for recruitment and diversity? Let’s find out…

What is degree inflation?

Degree inflation is a common phenomenon. Many companies now require a college degree for roles that didn’t previously require one.

Wondering why and how this situation came about? We can trace it back to the Great Recession.

After the financial crash, there were many more job applicants than openings. Employers who were overwhelmed with applications started requiring degrees as a way to narrow down the candidate pool. The new requirements helped companies manage the recruitment process. 

The economy later rebounded, but degree inflation seems to have stuck around, causing problems for both employers and candidates.

What degree inflation means for employers

According to Harvard Business School, degree inflation makes the labor market inefficient. There often simply aren’t enough graduates to fill the roles being advertised.

When we consider that many of these roles don’t actually require college-level education, recruiters are overlooking qualified candidates and picking from a smaller talent pool than they need to.

This makes the recruitment process longer and more costly.

Graduates also have higher salary expectations than non-graduates, so employers have to pay between 11% and 30% more to attract and retain these workers.  

What degree inflation means for candidates

Candidates are finding it harder to develop their careers without a degree qualification.

But college tuition fees are expensive. When you factor in student loan interest and lost earnings, the cost is prohibitive to many underprivileged and ethnic minority students.

In addition, many older workers entered jobs when degrees weren’t required. These people now find it harder to switch jobs because they don’t have the right qualifications.

By requiring a degree, employers are discounting vast numbers of older and underprivileged but perfectly well-qualified candidates from the recruitment process.  

🗯 By requiring a degree, employers are discounting vast numbers of older and underprivileged but perfectly well-qualified candidates from the recruitment process.  

What can you do to fight degree inflation?

If a degree requirement is still making it onto most of your company’s job ads, it’s time to step back and take stock.

Perhaps degree-level education is essential for a candidate to be able to do the job.

But if not, there are many ways you can fight degree inflation, grow your talent pool, and make the recruitment process fairer and more diverse.

Reassess role requirements

First, you need to really understand which positions need a degree — and which ones don’t.

To do this, you have to be familiar with the actual skills required for the role you’re hiring for. So survey current team members and managers. Ask them if and how a degree qualification has helped them in their role.

Once you have a clear idea of the required skills, you know you can consider any candidates with those skills and enough experience. A degree qualification becomes a “nice to have” on your job ad, rather than a strict requirement.

Find ways to include “hidden workers” in the process

Hidden workers are the growing number of people screened out of consideration during recruitment.

These people want to secure work or increase their hours — but traditional talent acquisition pipelines are too quick to discount them.  

So what can your company do to include hidden workers?

🗯Hidden workers are the growing number of people screened out of consideration during recruitment.

Ditch an inflexible ATS

Outdated ATS systems don’t always give you the flexibility you need to find precisely the right talent for your organization.

Try switching your ATS software. Or opt for affirmative rather than negative filters.

For example, ensure that your ATS includes candidates with the necessary skills rather than discounting those without a college degree.

That way, hidden workers get to access good jobs without a degree qualification.

Target specific segments of hidden workers

Trying to uncover all hidden workers is a huge task for an employer. Working to find particular hidden worker segments is a more manageable first step.

By selecting a segment, your recruitment team can prioritize the right talent acquisition pipelines.

They can also focus on the right training opportunities for hidden workers once your organization has hired them.

Rewrite your job descriptions

Job descriptions for long-standing roles often get reused. New skills are simply tagged on to old posts, creating a long list of requirements that dissuades candidates from applying.

Crucially, these requirements are based on old schools of thought rather than the realities of the current situation.

So reassess which skills and qualifications you need each time you advertise a role. Revisit your job ads, rewriting and updating where necessary, and work out which jobs you can do without a degree.

Work on challenging long-held organizational beliefs

Some people within your organization may believe that a degree requirement is the only way to hire top-level talent.

But including a wider pool of candidates in the recruitment process isn’t an act of charity. You’re not simply offering a lifeline to disadvantaged applicants.

While the battle against degree inflation provides obvious social benefits, there’s a strong business case too. For example, did you know that companies who purposefully hire hidden workers are 36% less likely to face talent and skills shortages?

With the help of data collection and analysis, you can prove to the wider organization that removing a degree requirement doesn’t reduce the quality of candidates.

Instead, it provides good ROI by widening the talent pool, lowering salary costs, and increasing company diversity while still ensuring that only candidates with the right skills make it to the job offer stage.

Want to offer company careers without a degree requirement? Try FairScreen

FairScreen is Headstart’s ATS add-on. With FairScreen, recruiters can get real-time social mobility stats. This helps you determine whether hard criteria — such as a degree requirement — are disadvantageous to particular candidate groups.

From there, you can work to counteract inequalities in the recruitment process, find hidden talent, and increase company diversity.

Want to see FairScreen in action? Book your free demo today.

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