There is a constant power struggle in many companies over what they’re looking for when it comes to hiring candidates. Some hiring managers value education, whereas others value the skills a candidate possesses. But how can candidates really understand which is most important when it differs from company to company? Google and other large high-tech companies have been very vocal on this topic. Most of them don’t care about a candidate’s education as long as the skills are there.

On the other side of the coin, some companies do value education, and for them, the type of university or college a candidate attended is one of the most important features in a resume. Many use the criteria of graduating from a top university as a requirement before an interview is even given. The danger arises when top students can’t afford to attend a top-tiered school, or when graduates of those schools aren’t interested in working in your company. How can companies balance the need for education versus skills, so that they can retain employees with high enough skills and education level to maximize the bottom line?

Risks Involved in Educational Screening

If having attended a top university or college is part of your hiring criteria, your company is at risk of leaving out a lot of smart candidates who went to a state school or a smaller school because of money or personal reasons. You could have a third- or fourth-generation family members graduate from a specific college simply because it’s a tradition. In these cases, having specific universities as part of your screening criteria will only hurt your recruitment efforts.

Instead, you might want to think of having a specific degree as a screening criterion. Then you’ll get a wide variety of candidates, and a more diverse hiring pool is a better hiring pool.

Education or Skills?

Most companies will lean towards the latter, but place some importance on a strong education. If you read most job listings, they don’t list educational requirements, but rather the necessary skills. At least in the technology field, which is one of the largest hiring fields today, skills trump education. Take a look at some of the biggest geniuses out there, and you’ll see that they dropped out of college to follow a dream and turned it into a huge success (i.e. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook).

Is Testing the Answer?

Testing candidates can solve the problem of whether to hire for education or for skills. If you have a job opening and you want to find the most qualified candidates, you can use online testing services to help you find the right fit. This will help you test for skills that are outside of traditional education systems and give you a better and more accurate understanding of the person’s skill level in a particular area. It’s also an easier way of determining who is the strongest candidate.

Adina Miron

4 Comments

  • Avatar Marry L. says:

    I don’t think we should value education more than skills. A lot of famous people were bad at schoolwork or even never finished college but still achieved huge success: Einstein, Jobs, Fresco, and many others. And how many people get education in one area but work in another?

  • Avatar Cindy M. says:

    I don’t think that educational requirements should be included when opening a position. It can really discourage a lot of talented people. Moreover, the educated ones may possess the same skills as the uneducated while requiring bigger salaries.

  • Avatar Jules K. says:

    This answer strongly depends on the requirements for the prospective employee. Either education or a high level of skills is important, but we shouldn’t forget that the educated ones are likely to have multitasking skills, as university students have usually managed to combine working, partying, and studying.

  • Avatar Scottie Griffin says:

    Testing candidates can be helpful when choosing an employee, but most of these procedures are uniform and people already know what to expect from a test. Real work with customers requires an understanding of psychology, and the communication skills a person learns in college are helpful.

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