As a Hiring Manager, you need someone NOW, but you haven’t found that purple squirrel, which is what recruiters call the candidate that checks every single box on your wish list. (They’re also elusive and incredibly rare.)

Most of those job skills are easy to find. And years of experience: 2, 5, 8 or even 10? Okay!

The best one of all, though, is, “Bachelor’s Degree required.” But in WHAT? Because most of you didn’t say.


This is far too common, but you still have options.

There’s a well-known maxim stating, “You can train for skills, but you can’t train for attitude.” So if someone doesn’t quite fit your ideal laundry list, but they seem sharp, decent, or even friendly (depending on what you need the most), you might do well to invest in them anyway. A little on-the-job training and some professional development, and your “diamond in the rough” can REALLY start to shine!

There’s still the matter of that four-year degree, though. You didn’t ask for Finance, or Marketing, or Communications, or Business Administration. You just want someone who’s been through college or university and lived to tell the tale.

What does that demonstrate? Dogged persistence? Problem-solving abilities? Loyalty to one’s commitments? That’s fair. Do you know what else demonstrates those strong character traits you so cherish? Several years of service with a single company where someone left on good terms.

In driving for a degree of ANY sort, you could be an aggressive financial-services Executive, and you could hire someone for your team with a Galician Language and Literature Degree. By the same logic, someone with an Accounting degree would be a perfect fit for your Sales role. Or an MBA would ensure success as a music teacher. According to your job listing, this is exactly what you wanted. And it could even be a good match (maybe)!

But now you’ve ruled out the person with a dozen years of experience doing *exactly* what you wanted them to know how to do, because that person didn’t go to (or stay in) college. Maybe they joined the military but then started a family and never got back to school. Perhaps their tiny scholarship ran out after they completed only a few credits, and they decided that student loans could wait, so they started to rack up that valuable experience that you also want. They have almost everything you asked for, but you haven’t seen them yet, because they’re “unqualified.”

It might even be that your trusted staff, already stretched a bit thin (that’s why you’re hiring again, right?), is using an Applicant Tracking System to shunt aside all of those pesky applicants who don’t have a degree. They told the truth when you asked, so you’ll never even know they applied. It’s a common practice, but it could be starving your team of the help they so desperately need, while the almost-perfect candidate is eager to step up and offer you theirs.

But if you said no in advance, they can’t reach you in your hour of need.


The accidental “poison pill”

Your request made sense at first, didn’t it? Consider what you were really trying to achieve with that pre-screen blockade, though.

Are you building an inclusive and equitable workforce, as long as everyone has “paid their dues” before you meet? Yes, it IS legal to require a degree, but if you don’t discriminate for anything else, then why is this the professional hill you choose to die on?

Did you get your degree, so you won’t consider working alongside someone who hasn’t done the same? Or do you just want to be sure that your new hire is in enough debt to let you set ALL the rules without pushing back? Whichever one is closer to the truth, you could be hobbling your company over your pride or your grip on power.

Or are you afraid that you won’t be able to hold onto some new street-schooled star who brightens up your entire company AND your bottom line, so you don’t even want to invest in them? Remember that loyalty runs both ways. If you trust in them and show them some respect, you’ll likely get that back in spades. Even if your new addition outgrows the opportunities you can provide for them in time, the right one will still give you plenty of notice of their intent to move on, especially if you’ve built a safe space for honest communication throughout your team.

Now, what about those people with a plethora of skills and loads of experience who are ready to join you right away, if only you could interview them and the unspecified degree you wish they would bring? They come bearing gifts to you and your company: technical expertise, soft skills, emotional intelligence, and practical experience….

No paper on the wall, though. So, what is one to do?

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