Should You Hire Someone Who Didn’t Graduate College?

Career Blog

If they can do the job, then as a CHRO, I’d say Absolutely. 

I value formal education, and for some roles, it’s mandatory. (I wouldn’t hire a self-taught brain surgeon.) In most cases, however, college is but one path to competence, and it’s not always the quickest or most financially sound road to travel.

Eliminate Bias

A good way to evaluate candidates and eliminate potential bias is to ask for and examine work product. If I’m hiring a graphic designer, for example, I want someone who can produce eye-catching material that conveys a clear message. I don’t care if he or she went to grad school or charm school. The work matters most. 

Beware of Lock-In

Too often, hiring managers miss out on excellence because they suffer from lock-in/lock-out – a phenomenon that prevents us from seeing something in a new light once we’ve already adopted a view. For an example, check out the duck/rabbit picture accompanying this post. While you might see one of the animals first, you should be able to see both, interchange between the two, and, ideally, be open to seeing other pictures. (*Can you also see the pony?)  

Avoid the lock-in/lock-out trap by being open to finding greatness in unusual places. If you don’t, your competitors will. 

Seek True Value

Degrees are important, but many Ph. D.s struggle to transform theoretical knowledge into practical work products. On the other hand, the candidate with a high school diploma and useful work, military, or volunteer experience could be a motivated lifelong learner with a track record of producing tangible results. 

So, who is best for the job? You have to ask. And that means interviewing all parties. So be sure to remove the “screen out” requirements in your application process that prevent you from seeing these candidates.

Oh, and if you hire someone without a degree, don’t be cheap on the compensation. Pay for skills, not fancy paper. The student already paid for that. Remember, HR has the power to solve any pay gap issue, whether real or perceived, including the experience vs. education gap. 

*There is no pony. If you see a pony, consult a psychiatrist.  

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