It is no secret that successfully finishing a university degree will be a boost to the career. No doubt, the knowledge acquired during the studies are invaluable and hard to acquire in any other way. This is especially true during the first few years of a career, where the daily work routine tends to be a lot more “hands-on” than in leadership positions. That you need an engineering degree to fill and engineer position is a no-brainer.

A little further down the line, if you look at job advertisements and from experiences in our Consulting work, you will find exampled where things are less clear, though. Is someone who has been the head of a huge sales department for ten years really unsuitable to head another just slightly larger department because some twenty years ago, he didn’t study economics but opted for vocational training?

This is something to keep in mind when compiling the requirements in job descriptions. If a degree is listed, it is important that there’s a clear reason why the Diploma/Masters/Bachelor/PHD is important for that particular position. Things like “degree in math, history or some technical study”, in short anything that could be paraphrased as “we’re not sure what field the candidate studied in as long as they went to a university” should be avoided. If you just want more abstract skills that usually come with having spent time at the university, like working independently and self-motivated, then write those instead! Otherwise the ad could easily convey the image of a superficially-minded company culture that is more interested in pretty titles than people and their skills.

Not only will you lose good candidates who happened to not acquire their qualifications in a lecture hall. Those specifically desired candidates with titles might also decide that they would rather work for a company with a less rigid mind set. Hence, with a badly thought-through phrasing in a job description it is quite possible to scare off two different groups of candidates, those with and those without a degree. In today’s job market, that’s probably not a good thing for the company.

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