Does having a degree matter when it comes to hiring?

07 Dec 2023

A new survey by recruitment firm Hays revealed that 45% of employers say a candidate having a degree is “not important.” An additional 39% of the 14,925 employers polled said a degree was “quite important but not essential,” whilst 16% said a degree was essential when it comes to recruitment. “People are leaving education with qualifications that don’t fully match the needs of today’s employers, let alone their future requirements,” said Melanie Forbes, managing director of the Association for Professional Staffing Companies Outsource. “With artificial intelligence, in particular generative AI, influencing the skills of the workforce, businesses need agile talent attraction solutions, and that’s where skills-based hiring will be valuable.”

Willing to learn

The findings also revealed that 73% of businesses that took part in the survey value an applicant’s willingness to learn over their current skillset. Furthermore, the employers said they are becoming more willing to train staff, with 80% saying they would recruit an under-qualified candidate with the aim of upskilling them, in comparison to 73% in 2022. “A willingness to learn, improve and grow can, in certain circumstances, outweigh true academic qualifications,” according to Nick Allwood, regional director at Macmillan Davies. “For candidates, it removes a lot of the traditional barriers to entry into certain companies or roles and offers comfort that a business is open-minded to background and more likely to invest in further development to enhance their skill set, both huge factors in gaining commitment from a more discerning employee base.”

Importance of attitude

More and more businesses appear to be focusing on skills and ability as opposed to reaching a recruitment decision based on a degree that may have been acquired several years ago. “Most recently, there is a huge focus on hiring for attitude, cultural fit, and, of course, skills rather than necessarily having a degree,” said HRLife director Jemma Rawlins. However, despite this shift in attitude, 21% of London-based employers said they wouldn’t consider an applicant without a degree. “Perhaps it’s time to rethink the requirements on a job description,” Rawlins added.

No more CVs?

Recognition of the value of skills-based hiring is growing. As such, a successful shift to this approach will need a joint effort from the whole talent ecosystem, and “every stage of the talent lifecycle needs to embrace this change,” Forbes added. She said this move could result in “the end of the CV”, which, according to her, is “significantly outdated and has the potential to hinder skills-based hiring.”