Recently I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague in the recruiting field about the “requirement” for a candidate to have a Bachelor’s degree at some organizations, and I’m curious what others opinions and experiences are on this matter.

Before getting too far into this, let me set up a fictional stage… (this is very similar to something that recently happened, although, I‘ve changed the name and background of the person involved, for obvious reasons).  My friend and I, both technical recruiters, were discussing a candidate he is working with (we’ll call him John), whom we have both known for several years. John is a very experienced and capable Business Architect, with over 20 years of experience in technology (both as a corporate employee and as a consultant). John didn’t take the traditional “graduate high school – go to college – get a Bachelor’s degree – get a job” route. Rather, he opted to attend a 2-year technical school where he learned the fundamentals of network architecture, security and database design, and then joined the workforce. In the 20 years since John graduated from technical school, his career has grown from an entry level technical support role, to being the lead architect on his team (leading a team of software developers and architects), in a fortune 500 corporation.

John was recently approached by my friend about a role at another large corporation. His background was exactly what this company was looking for, his experience in leadership was a huge plus, his desired compensation met with what this firm was looking for, his reputation and references would be rock solid… But one box was left unchecked. This particular company requires a Bachelor’s degree. Not a Bachelor’s degree in Technology, just a degree…. ANY degree.  

As my friend explained why John wasn’t chosen to move forward in the process, I felt my eyes involuntarily rolling as my head slowly started shaking back and forth. Surely, this company wouldn’t rather have someone less qualified than John, just because his competition happened to have a degree in some completely unrelated field like Paranormal Science (yes, it turns out you can actually get a degree in Ghost Busting) or Physical Education. I must have misunderstood what he said. My friend confirmed that the degree needn’t be in Technology (that, at least, would have been understandable) … he just needed that diploma.

Although I believe the winds of change are beginning to blow, and more companies are looking at overall experience rather than being steadfast in requiring a university diploma, I still hear about many companies who stand by this antiquated philosophy... One that has never made sense to me.

If a company requires a Bachelor’s degree in a technical discipline for a technical role (or a degree in HR for an HR role… or a degree in Accounting for an Accounting role), I think that’s a fair requirement. But in my opinion, a company enforcing a policy requiring all potential employees to have a Bachelor’s degree without any regard to what they studied, seems pointless and short-sighted.

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