How Much Weight Should a Job Candidate's Education Hold?

The benefits of holding a college degree for a job-seeker are fairly obvious - August 2013 stats show that the unemployment rate for college graduates is just under 4 percent, compared to nearly 8 percent of those who only have a high school diploma and nearly 11 percent for high-school dropouts.

However, that only answers the question how much attending college should matter for the person looking for a job. The question is if employers should be placing so much weight on the education of their job candidates.


College degrees should hold weight - but only to a certain extent.

Based on surveys, it's clear that recruiters put a lot of weight on candidates with a college degree. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education notes that two-thirds of employers say meeting degree requirements for a job posting is 100 percent required to even have your resume read. But at the same time, many employers kvetch about a candidate's preparedness for the work force - even if they graduated magna cum laude. So, clearly, even among those doing the interviewing, the worthwhileness of a college degree is debatable.

In an article in The New York Times, business owner Tom Szaky notes that education only matters to him in the case of inexperienced employees or if a job requires a background in an academic subject such as science or law. After five years, both a candidate's alma mater and major matter little to him.


Critical thinking skills matter, college degree or not.

What a college degree does show, however, is a candidate's ability to work toward a goal and stick with a task. Of course, you never know how much assistance a candidate had, whether it was financially or otherwise, and legally speaking, it's a minefield when you get to asking personal questions like that - particularly if you're wondering why a candidate didn't finish college.

Overall, though, a college degree speaks to a potential employee's ability to patiently complete coursework and stay committed to something, and that is something to be seriously considered.

Once you determine how much a college degree matters in your search for the perfect job candidate, the next question is: How much does the candidate's major matter? To some of your fellow recruiters, not much. To others, it's important. It all depends on what the job entails.

College majors that are tied to specific career paths, such as engineering or law, clearly hold weight. Other courses of study, particularly those in the liberal arts or even general fields like business, might mean a little less, as long as the candidate has demonstrated ability to problem-solve, think creatively, and communicate effectively.

Majors tend to matter more when dealing with potential candidates that are young, inexperienced, and perhaps only know what they've been taught in college. As a job seeker moves through the industry, he'll pick up skills that will make his college studies moot.

When interviewing a candidate, give weight to their education - but not too much. You want to look for candidates that are quick to learn, effective communicators, and have growth potential. That might be a college graduate, but you never know - the perfect person might have skipped out on higher education but will still be a worthwhile addition to your company.

Kelsey Castle is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in business and real estate, such as Amarillo homes. She resides in Maryland.

Views: 199

Tags: career, education, experience, job, recruiting

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on November 4, 2013 at 1:26pm

A relevant article:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/53-of-recent-co...

53% of Recent College Grads Are Jobless or Underemployed—How?


 

A college diploma isn't worth what it used to be. To get hired, grads today need hard skills.

615_Starbucks_Baristas_Reuters.jpg

Reuters

More than half of America's recent college graduates are either  unemployed or working in a job that doesn't require a bachelor's degree, the Associated Press reported this weekend. The story would seem to be more evidence that, regardless of your education, the wake of the Great Recession has been a terrible time to be young and hunting for work.

But are we really becoming another Greece or Spain, a wasteland of opportunity for anybody under the age of 25? Not quite. What the new statistics really tell us about is the changing nature, and value, of higher education.

First, here's the nut of the AP's findings, which it derived with the help of researchers from Northeastern University, Drexel University, and the Economic Policy Institute, based on data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor:

About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields.

Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year.

These numbers are hard to fathom, and the more you compare them to other measures of unemployment, the more bizarre they seem. Unfortunately, I don't have all of the data the AP was working with. But their analysis implies that about a quarter of the post-collegiate population is outright unemployed. By comparison, in December 2011, only a fifth of 16 to 19-year-old Americans couldn't get work. Meanwhile, according to the OECD, just 18.4 percent of all Americans under the age of 25 were unemployed in 2010. By those measures, college grads are actually faring worse in the job market than the overall youth population. They're also suffering terribly compared to the older college-educated populace, which has an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent. 

It's hard to imagine why any of this might be, other than that some recent grads may simply not be willing to take the low level jobs available to them. 

On the other hand, many obviously are. As the AP notes, recent graduates are now more likely to work as "waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined." This is a problem for any number of reasons, but here are two big ones: First, a degree is more expensive than ever, and students are piling on debt to finance their educations. It's much harder to pay back loans while working for tips at Buffalo Wild Wings than when you have a decent office job. Second, when college graduates take a low-paid, low-skill job, they're probably displacing a less educated worker, For every underemployed college degree holder, there's a decent chance someone with just a high school diploma is out of work entirely. 

So is a college education simply less valuable than in the past? In some respects, yes. According to the Census, the number of Americans under the age of 25 with at least a bachelor's degree has grown 38 percent since 2000. Not nearly enough jobs have been created to accommodate them, which has resulted in falling wages for young college graduates in the past decade, as well as the employment problems we're now seeing. 

That said, not all degrees are created equal. The AP reports that students who graduated out of the sciences or other technical fields, such as accounting, were much less likely to be jobless or underemployed than humanities and arts graduates. You know that old saw about how college is just about getting a fancy piece of paper? Not true. For an education to be worth anything these days, it needs to impart skills. 

When there were fewer graduates, a generic college degree used to be a valuable credential. Now that the market is flooded, diplomas count less, and specific skills count more. This means that, in many instances, associates and technical degrees may be more financially valuable than a liberal arts degree. After all, some of the fastest growing job categories are expected to be in so-called "middle-skill" positions such as nursing, which do not require a full, four-year education. It's one more sign that, for people seeking to fix America's employment picture, "college for all" is the wrong mantra. We need to be talking about "skills for all" instead. 

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on November 4, 2013 at 1:27pm

A relevant article:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/53-of-recent-co...

53% of Recent College Grads Are Jobless or Underemployed—How?


 

A college diploma isn't worth what it used to be. To get hired, grads today need hard skills.

615_Starbucks_Baristas_Reuters.jpg

Reuters

More than half of America's recent college graduates are either  unemployed or working in a job that doesn't require a bachelor's degree, the Associated Press reported this weekend. The story would seem to be more evidence that, regardless of your education, the wake of the Great Recession has been a terrible time to be young and hunting for work.

But are we really becoming another Greece or Spain, a wasteland of opportunity for anybody under the age of 25? Not quite. What the new statistics really tell us about is the changing nature, and value, of higher education.

First, here's the nut of the AP's findings, which it derived with the help of researchers from Northeastern University, Drexel University, and the Economic Policy Institute, based on data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor:

About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields.

Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year.

These numbers are hard to fathom, and the more you compare them to other measures of unemployment, the more bizarre they seem. Unfortunately, I don't have all of the data the AP was working with. But their analysis implies that about a quarter of the post-collegiate population is outright unemployed. By comparison, in December 2011, only a fifth of 16 to 19-year-old Americans couldn't get work. Meanwhile, according to the OECD, just 18.4 percent of all Americans under the age of 25 were unemployed in 2010. By those measures, college grads are actually faring worse in the job market than the overall youth population. They're also suffering terribly compared to the older college-educated populace, which has an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent. 

It's hard to imagine why any of this might be, other than that some recent grads may simply not be willing to take the low level jobs available to them. 

On the other hand, many obviously are. As the AP notes, recent graduates are now more likely to work as "waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined." This is a problem for any number of reasons, but here are two big ones: First, a degree is more expensive than ever, and students are piling on debt to finance their educations. It's much harder to pay back loans while working for tips at Buffalo Wild Wings than when you have a decent office job. Second, when college graduates take a low-paid, low-skill job, they're probably displacing a less educated worker, For every underemployed college degree holder, there's a decent chance someone with just a high school diploma is out of work entirely. 

So is a college education simply less valuable than in the past? In some respects, yes. According to the Census, the number of Americans under the age of 25 with at least a bachelor's degree has grown 38 percent since 2000. Not nearly enough jobs have been created to accommodate them, which has resulted in falling wages for young college graduates in the past decade, as well as the employment problems we're now seeing. 

That said, not all degrees are created equal. The AP reports that students who graduated out of the sciences or other technical fields, such as accounting, were much less likely to be jobless or underemployed than humanities and arts graduates. You know that old saw about how college is just about getting a fancy piece of paper? Not true. For an education to be worth anything these days, it needs to impart skills. 

When there were fewer graduates, a generic college degree used to be a valuable credential. Now that the market is flooded, diplomas count less, and specific skills count more. This means that, in many instances, associates and technical degrees may be more financially valuable than a liberal arts degree. After all, some of the fastest growing job categories are expected to be in so-called "middle-skill" positions such as nursing, which do not require a full, four-year education. It's one more sign that, for people seeking to fix America's employment picture, "college for all" is the wrong mantra. We need to be talking about "skills for all" instead. 

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on November 4, 2013 at 1:27pm

A relevant article:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/53-of-recent-co...

53% of Recent College Grads Are Jobless or Underemployed—How?


 

A college diploma isn't worth what it used to be. To get hired, grads today need hard skills.

More than half of America's recent college graduates are either  unemployed or working in a job that doesn't require a bachelor's degree, the Associated Press reported this weekend. The story would seem to be more evidence that, regardless of your education, the wake of the Great Recession has been a terrible time to be young and hunting for work.

But are we really becoming another Greece or Spain, a wasteland of opportunity for anybody under the age of 25? Not quite. What the new statistics really tell us about is the changing nature, and value, of higher education.

First, here's the nut of the AP's findings, which it derived with the help of researchers from Northeastern University, Drexel University, and the Economic Policy Institute, based on data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor:

About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields.

Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year.

These numbers are hard to fathom, and the more you compare them to other measures of unemployment, the more bizarre they seem. Unfortunately, I don't have all of the data the AP was working with. But their analysis implies that about a quarter of the post-collegiate population is outright unemployed. By comparison, in December 2011, only a fifth of 16 to 19-year-old Americans couldn't get work. Meanwhile, according to the OECD, just 18.4 percent of all Americans under the age of 25 were unemployed in 2010. By those measures, college grads are actually faring worse in the job market than the overall youth population. They're also suffering terribly compared to the older college-educated populace, which has an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent. 

It's hard to imagine why any of this might be, other than that some recent grads may simply not be willing to take the low level jobs available to them. 

On the other hand, many obviously are. As the AP notes, recent graduates are now more likely to work as "waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined." This is a problem for any number of reasons, but here are two big ones: First, a degree is more expensive than ever, and students are piling on debt to finance their educations. It's much harder to pay back loans while working for tips at Buffalo Wild Wings than when you have a decent office job. Second, when college graduates take a low-paid, low-skill job, they're probably displacing a less educated worker, For every underemployed college degree holder, there's a decent chance someone with just a high school diploma is out of work entirely. 

So is a college education simply less valuable than in the past? In some respects, yes. According to the Census, the number of Americans under the age of 25 with at least a bachelor's degree has grown 38 percent since 2000. Not nearly enough jobs have been created to accommodate them, which has resulted in falling wages for young college graduates in the past decade, as well as the employment problems we're now seeing. 

That said, not all degrees are created equal. The AP reports that students who graduated out of the sciences or other technical fields, such as accounting, were much less likely to be jobless or underemployed than humanities and arts graduates. You know that old saw about how college is just about getting a fancy piece of paper? Not true. For an education to be worth anything these days, it needs to impart skills. 

When there were fewer graduates, a generic college degree used to be a valuable credential. Now that the market is flooded, diplomas count less, and specific skills count more. This means that, in many instances, associates and technical degrees may be more financially valuable than a liberal arts degree. After all, some of the fastest growing job categories are expected to be in so-called "middle-skill" positions such as nursing, which do not require a full, four-year education. It's one more sign that, for people seeking to fix America's employment picture, "college for all" is the wrong mantra. We need to be talking about "skills for all" instead. 

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on November 4, 2013 at 1:29pm

A relevant article:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/53-of-recent-co...

53% of Recent College Grads Are Jobless or Underemployed—How?

Jordan WeissmannApr 23 2012, 3:06 PM ET

 

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A college diploma isn't worth what it used to be. To get hired, grads today need hard skills.

First, here's the nut of the AP's findings, which it derived with the help of researchers from Northeastern University, Drexel University, and the Economic Policy Institute, based on data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor:

 

 

About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields.

Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year.

 

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