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Skills-Based Hiring: Do You Still Need a Degree to Get Hired Today?

Skills-Based Hiring: Do You Still Need a Degree to Get Hired Today?

Most people believe that getting a job without a college degree is difficult. But is this belief true, or is it a common misconception? This article explores skills-based and traditional hiring and whether finding work in today’s marketplace requires a college degree. 

What is Skills-Based Hiring? 

Skills-based hiring is an approach that looks at the skills needed to do the job rather than skill proxies that are often used such as education. This means that hiring managers prioritize the actual know-how and competency required for a role rather than simply hiring a candidate who has a degree from a prestigious institution. 

While traditional-based hiring might prioritize things like your resume, work experience, or college degree, skills-based hiring typically involves practical assessments to test your competence in your field. The skills being evaluated by hiring managers using the skills-based hiring approach are not always hard technical skills and may be soft, cognitive, or physical, depending on the role in question. 

More and more companies are evolving their recruitment practices and leaning towards skills-based rather than traditional hiring. Notable companies like Apple, Google, IBM, and Starbucks made headlines for dropping college degrees as one of their employment requirements. According to a survey by Harvard Business Review, companies reduced degree requirements for about 31 percent of their high-level position and nearly half of their middle-skill positions.¹  

More employers realize competency, not a qualification on paper, is what drives change in the workplace. The corporate world has dubbed this shift “breaking the paper ceiling.” 

 

The Shift Towards Skills-Based Hiring Practices 

Companies are warming up to skills-based hiring approaches because they allow hiring managers to immediately identify and select the most talented candidate from a group of applicants.  

Skills-based approaches have been instrumental in improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace and bridging the corporate gap between privileged and underprivileged groups. Research by the Pew Research Center shows that only 4 in 10 American adults have college degrees.2 According to this study, women were more likely than men to cite financial restrictions as a reason for not completing college. When racial backgrounds were considered, Hispanics were more likely than any other race to be unable to attend college due to financial reasons.  

If traditional hiring methods persist, these groups will most likely continue to be excluded from the workforce.  

Is a Degree Essential for a Modern Job Search? 

It depends. 

Many jobs prioritize skill over credentials, especially in fields related to information technology, cybersecurity, computer programming, or artificial intelligence. These jobs are relatively new to the scene. You might just as easily get a mid-skill position in an industry like cybersecurity after a six-month training boot camp as you would with a four-year college degree. However, this is less possible in other industries. Fields like law, medicine, and engineering still require a bachelor’s degree or higher. 

It is also necessary to highlight the importance of education in lifetime earnings projections. Data indicates that the higher your level of formal education, the higher you are likely to earn.3 According to Statistics by Social Security Administration, men and women with a college education earn, on average, around 900,000 USD and 630,000 USD more, respectively, than those with only a high school diploma. These are significant figures, but it’s important to remember that, aside from financial gain, job satisfaction and work-life balance are also crucial aspects of a fulfilling career. 

Ultimately, whether you need a college degree depends on your industry, the companies you apply to, and, of course, whether you choose to acquire one. 

What Industries Prioritize Skills Over Degrees? 

If you’re looking to break into an industry that values your practical skills and expertise over college credentials, here are a few industries that prioritize hands-on skills over college degrees: 

Technology 

Technology is at the top of the list because it is a very skills-based industry. Most tech roles don’t need college credentials and only require candidates to display proficiency in using frameworks, programming languages, AI models, and other software. 

Creativity and Culture 

The creative arts industry is notoriously flexible and is most likely one of the most skills-based industries in existence. Writers, illustrators, fashion designers, and other artists don’t need a college degree in their fields to get hired if they have portfolios that prove they have the practical experience and talent to shine in their workplaces. 

Sales and Customer Service 

Sales, marketing, customer experience, and other people-facing roles typically don’t prioritize a college education. These roles usually look for certain soft skills in candidates, such as strong communication skills, empathy, and persuasion. Extensive relevant experience is also a factor here, but college degrees are not strictly required. Service industries, entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and real estate are among other industries that don’t necessitate a college degree.  

How to Succeed in Skills-Based Recruitment 

Here are a few tips on how to succeed in skills-based recruitment, whether you have a college education or not: 

1. Put Your Best Foot Forward 

Skills-based recruitment will most likely come with practical assessments, so be prepared to showcase your expertise. Anticipate technical tests and have a portfolio ready to highlight your skills. This will effectively demonstrate your value to potential employers. 

2. Emphasize Your Soft Skills 

In a skills-based recruitment process, soft skills can be the tipping point between a good candidate and a great one. Highlight your strengths in communication, teamwork, and empathy—these are highly sought-after qualities by employers. Demonstrate your adaptability and eagerness to learn to showcase your well-roundedness and potential for growth. This strong combination can even compensate for minor technical gaps. 

3. Build an Online Presence 

Don’t underestimate the power of a professional online presence! It showcases your passion and expertise, allowing you to share valuable industry insights and network with potential employers. This not only establishes you as a thought leader but also helps you build a strong personal brand, making you stand out from the crowd in today’s competitive job market. 

DON’T LET THE LACK OF A DEGREE HOLD YOU BACK: LAUNCH YOUR CAREER WITH SUPPORT FROM PEAK PERFORMERS 

The job market is changing and Peak Performers is here to help you thrive in the skills-based hiring era. Whether you’re a non-degreed professional or a recent graduate, our focus is on connecting you with fulfilling jobs. 

Browse open positions and get matched with your perfect career fit. 

 

References 

  1. Miller, Jonathan. Langer, Christina and Sigelman, Matt. “Skills-Based Hiring Is on the Rise.” Harvard Business Review, 11 Feb 2022, hbr.org/2022/02/skills-based-hiring-is-on-the-rise.
  2. Schaeffer, Katherine. “10 facts about today’s college graduates” Pew Research Center, 12 April 2022, www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/04/12/10-facts-about-todays-college-graduates/.
  3. “Education and Lifetime Earnings,” Social Security Administration, November 2015, www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/research-summaries/education-earnings.html.

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