Consider this all too familiar scenario. 

Emily has been in the labor force for the last six years. She has been working as a technical support specialist and is highly skilled at what she does to the point that she can train other people on the job. She has been pining to join her dream tech company for quite some time, but despite her skills, she remains unqualified. 

This is because Emily does not possess a college degree – a qualification that her dream company requires. 

Job Requirements: Degree Inflation 

Research from the private sector and academia revealed widespread Degree Inflation still exists in the labor market. This happens when jobs that did not require a college degree before now require one. These include jobs such as an administrative assistant or production supervisor. 

According to the same study, degree inflation worsens the skilled labor shortage by keeping highly qualified workers out of good jobs that they can do otherwise with flying colors. Worse, putting a college degree as one of the job requirements may be wasteful for your company. By competing for a limited pool of college degree holders, you may be overspending on talent as a hiring manager. 

In fact, according to a study from Pew Research Center, the preference for a college degree job requirement over skills effectively marginalizes 62 percent of the labor force as only 38 percent of Americans possess a college degree. 

Thankfully, the last two years have challenged this labor phenomenon. But, thanks to the pandemic, there lies a silver lining.   

Job Requirements and the Job Description 

As a public health emergency, the pandemic has forced many hiring managers to stop clinging to a college degree as reassurance for job performance. But, come to think of it. Many companies need to do this to weather the myriad challenges of hiring in the current times. 

Your company needs to look closely at the job description and if a college degree is necessary to fill your vacancies. 

Job Requirements Post Pandemic: Potential Over Credential 

The ongoing pandemic has disrupted the hiring process. More and more companies have started putting a premium on skills over a formal college degree.   

Is experience really better than a college degree? If skills or work experience is better than a college degree, why should YOUR company begin investing in talent training and mentoring now more than ever? 

Job Requirements: The Value of a College Degree – Perceived Vs. Actual 

Research from the Harvard Business Review says that up until recently, many companies, including those in tech, hire degree holders because of soft skills. Soft skills refer to attributes like effective communication, teamwork, adaptability, initiative, and emotional intelligence. The assumption then was that college degree holders tend to have more mature soft skills than their non-degree counterparts. 

However, in his study, University of Iowa Professor Frank Schmidt concluded that the connection between education level and job performance is weak. His research shows that intelligence scores are much better measures of job potential, especially when jobs require constant thinking and learning. Hence, many companies now hire based on in-demand technical skills over the proverbial college degree. Doing this allows you to optimize your recruitment and staffing budgets. 

Companies have also become more aware of what skills and capabilities they are truly looking for. As a result, hiring managers also describe these capabilities more explicitly in job ads. This, in turn, makes your job applicants more aware of the skills they need to develop.   

By doing away with overblown degree requirements, your company contributes to greater labor market equity. Previously overlooked but highly qualified workers can enter lucrative career pathways, while your company will have an easier time filling staff vacancies. 

A survey conducted by the Manpower Group of 2,000 employers and published in the Harvard Business Review revealed that big tech firms, like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, are beginning to shift preference on individual learnability, curiosity, and inquisitiveness as indicators of career potential over a plain college degree. 

This is why leading companies have begun investing heavily in employee training and talent development. The paradigm shift is not just on what they have before they enter your company. Instead, the greater emphasis now is on their ability to learn and absorb more knowledge and skills once they join your company. 

Getting Past the College Degree Trap: Investing in Talent 

Are you ready for a job requirement reset?  

By shifting the focus to skills over a college degree, you enable your company to tap into a bigger and more diverse workforce that is more inclusive and representative of the actual labor force. You may also potentially close employment gaps and job mismatches because your focus is now on skills.   

A study from the World Economic Forum shows that several high-profile tech companies such as EY, Google, and IBM, are gradually embracing hiring from less rigid talent pools. Aside from that, these companies have also started investing heavily in their staff’s continuous training and development. 

Companies look for talent with holistic skills – a combination of hard or technical skills and soft skills like creativity, being detail-oriented, a passion for collaboration, and problem-solving skills. This is why you should invest in apprenticeship programs. 

Hiring managers are now reaping benefits from apprenticeship programs, as these develop staff have technical skills and also possess human interaction skills that truly represent the brand and direction of the organization.   

Moreover, when you invest in continuous training for your employees, you are nurturing their capability for lifelong learning, effectively enabling them to master more skills and be more productive. 

Investing In Talent: Upskilling and Reskilling 

Your company’s most important resource is your human resources. This is why it is vital to proactively develop opportunities to mentor, nurture, and continually cultivate their skills.   

As the labor market and economy continue to evolve, it is important to upskill your employees so they can continue to effectively respond to the ever-changing global economy by becoming more skilled and up to date in their current position.  

Moreover, as a college degree may only give employees skills that may be obsolete in just several years, why not invest in reskilling your staff? This allows them to have more skills and effectively fit one or more roles. Consequently, when the demand changes in these uncertain times, your employees continue to be resilient and effective at what they do.  

As your employees continually learn new skills, they become thoroughly adaptable and can withstand the headwinds of market changes and the many shifts in the economy.  

Transferable Skills: The Power of Mentorship 

Many people who win in their professional lives attribute their success to a mentor. Similarly, many companies that withstood the test of time have also capitalized on the power of mentorship.  

A survey conducted by the Olivet Nazarene University of some 3,000 employees in late 2019 revealed that 76 percent of employees feel that having a mentor is vital to their success. But unfortunately, only 37 percent of them actually had one. 

Recall that mentors in the workplace provide a plethora of knowledge, skills, and experience. They can guide your employees to be more successful in what they do. Hence, one surefire way of investing in talent is to provide each employee with a mentor. This ultimately leads to the success of your organization. 


As job requirements continue to evolve and companies become more and more open-minded, the shift to giving higher value to skills more than a formal degree is a truly welcome development. Not only will this increase your hiring rate, but it will also ensure that your company gets to welcome more diverse and better-qualified talent for your staffing needs.   

If your company is ready to embrace more diversity and is looking for top talent that you can train, mentor, and nurture, Fox Search Group is the ideal partner for your staffing needs. No need to sacrifice quality with speed of delivery. The Fox Search Group is your partner in your search for top talent that is people-centered, innovative, highly qualified, and completely in sync with your company’s vision – no matter what job requirements you may have. Contact us today!