Are Degrees What They Used to Be? (& some interesting facts!)

Justin Byrne

Are Degrees What They Used To Be

Are Degrees What They Used to Be? (& some interesting facts!)

These days, job adverts are full of useless requirements and throw-away terms – there, I said it. “We’re looking for someone ambitious, driven and motivated”; lines like these beg the question, aren’t those a given? Would anyone hope to hire somebody who does not possess those qualities?

On top of this, there’s another item often found on a job ad which many argue these days shouldn’t be, or won’t be for much longer: the degree.

Whether you’ve added it as a “preferred”, or it’s top of the must-have list, there’s no denying you can find “university degree or equivalent” on the majority. The question is, should we be asking people to have a degree for jobs which don’t require technical or vocational education, such as sales?

Are degrees really what they used to be?

A degree doesn’t denote success in the role.

LinkedIn insights recently revealed that the number of managers hired without a four-year degree has increased by a massive 20% since 2019. These are individuals who have built careers from opportunities gained without having those all-important few lines on their CV, and working off of skills and experience only.

While a degree may help in some ways, it doesn’t mean those without one can’t be successful.

A degree doesn’t equal longevity in the role.

In fact, that same study by LinkedIn showed that employees without a four-year degree tend to stay 34% longer with the same business than those with! Of course we can’t say exactly why this is, but the number is impressive nonetheless. Could it be that those without a degree feel less entitled, thus more likely to stay loyal to one employer?

A degree doesn’t give your business the prestige it once did.

Long gone are the days of only hiring from Oxbridge, or “must come from a top ten uni”; it’s just not a smart way to recruit anymore. Take it from someone who has stood in many a room full of entry-level candidates, some who have degrees and some who don’t: when the chips are down, you can’t always tell the difference.

To answer my original question: are degrees what they used to be?

They certainly hold huge value, of that there’s no doubt. Having a degree demonstrates some key attributes that person possesses – commitment, ability to learn, the desire for self-improvement, to name just a few. But, from a purely employer’s perspective, hanging your company’s name and reputation on aspects of your people like those mentioned above, rather than what, where or even if they chose to study, says more about your business and the culture you aspire to.

Attracting then hiring the best entry-level candidates should be the name of the game. Doing so comes down to how you attract talent, the image you portray of your business and how you recruit. Spend more time understanding what the goal of your entry-level hire will be once on the job and explain this at interview; you’ll be able to get an idea for how they’d go about achieving it, showing their drive and desire to be successful. Assess how they problem solve, how they work around challenges, and how they approach different tasks.

Sometimes they’ll have some great experience to bring to the table, but no degree. Sometimes they’ll have a degree so perfectly in line with your requirements, it’s a done deal. Sometimes, their personality and drive will outshine both of those things altogether. But just having those lines on a CV shouldn’t be a reason to say yes or no before meeting them, not anymore.

Our graduate and early sales careers division helps employers do exactly this at interview stage, by conducting in-depth assessment days. These sessions encompass different tasks which help bring out different aspects of each candidate’s cultural fit, along with hard and soft skills, followed by the chance to delve into each person on a one-on-one basis. We take an open approach, ensuring we present the absolute best entry-level candidates, with the most potential – degree or no degree.

Best yet, we’re doing so entirely online. Get in touch to learn more about virtual assessment centres from Certus Graduate.