Convincing Hiring Managers To Ditch Degree Requirements

If your software engineers think they’re in demand, try talking to robotics engineers. As one of the most quickly growing and highly-niche areas in the world of engineering, they know exactly how in demand they are. It also means they have a tendency to exaggerate requirements, especially degree requirements, for new hires. With no baseline for what good looks like, it’s pretty easy to do. 

Whenever I speak to hiring managers in these highly niche fields, I usually get a warning from the recruiting team. “They’re a really tough crowd,” the manager will say in  a last minute emergency meeting. “I just need to warn you. They think they know everything.” I smile. “I got this, don’t worry about me.” 

These tough crowds full of highly niche hiring managers usually start to question the methodologies when I open the chat for questions. The most popular pushback? “I have a question about that degree requirement,” they’ll say. “You can’t be successful in this job without that degree.” 

Degree Requirements Aren’t Necessary

After asking a few follow-up questions, I’ll say: “OK, well, do you have the degree?” It’s met with silence on the other side.  They don’t usually have the requirement, but they do prove my point: the degree isn’t necessary for job success. So why are we using that to reject completely qualified candidates from atypical backgrounds? 

It happens every day in every field – from robotics to marketing and recruiting – and it’s perpetuated simply because hiring managers don’t know any better (yet they’re still responsible for writing job postings.) The other key factor? Recruiters don’t train managers on the requirements in the first place and it’s a big missed opportunity. 

When we don’t offer training for hiring managers about job postings, it will create challenges. Recruiting experience varies wildly for managers with experience. The have worked with recruiting agencies, in-house talent teams, and etc., and the experiences vary widely. They don’t know who to trust when it comes to hiring. With their job and team on the line, hiring managers insist on their way instead of trusting recruiters to do their jobs. 

Educating Managers on Degree Bias

When you’re working with hiring managers that won’t budge on the degree requirements, it’s time to ask more questions instead of ignoring the bias in front of you. Instead of asking “why are you being ridiculous” (I know, tempting), try these systems to quantify impact and educate managers. 

  1. Ask a lot of questions. What do you learn during your degree that would help you be successful on day one? Is there any other place you can learn how to do this job? 
  2. Explain why. There’s bias in those college degree requirements. It’s a privilege to have spent time learning instead of simply surviving and when you require degrees for roles that don’t require that knowledge? You’re saying that you must be privileged to work at the company (take our course to learn more about the other biases in postings).
  3. The mic drop question. If none of that works, ask them if every person that’s successful in this job has a degree. Then, the zinger. “Do you even have this degree?” Often that reflection is the moment when the light bulb turns on. 

We should be training hiring managers on hiring skills ranging from how to conduct interviews to who should be writing job posts (and how!). Instead of treating this interaction with hiring managers like we are collecting an order to fill, be their guide in hiring – because positions are more than degree requirements and good candidates are more than bullet points.

Candidate Generation and Nurturing Job Postings

Kat Kibben View All →

Katrina (Kat) Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive, unbiased job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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