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Despite Dropping Degree Requirements on Job Ads, Many Firms Aren’t Changing How They Hire

Employers are warming up to the idea of degree-less candidates but aren't actually extending them offers, a study revealed.

By Brit Morse, Inc. (TNS)

Employers and recruiting experts across the U.S. have shown increasing interest in using skills-based hiring—an approach that prioritizes a candidate’s ability to do the job rather than their college degree—to diversify talent pools. But while many employers are following this approach in theory by removing college degree requirements from job postings, some still hesitate to apply the approach in practice.

On Thursday, a new study was published by Harvard Business School and The Burning Glass Institute, a research institute focused on the future of work: It analyzed large data sets of online job postings from 2014 to 2023 and found a near 400% increase in the annual number of roles from which employers removed degree requirements. However, on average, employers only increased their hiring of candidates without a bachelor’s degree by about 3.5%.

This translates to less than 100,000 candidates without degrees being hired each year, out of the roughly 77 million total workers hired annually. As the study authors noted, the majority of Americans (62%) do not have a college degree.

“While [job degree requirements being dropped from ads] is an encouraging trend, there is a big difference between changing a job ad and changing the types of candidates ultimately hired for a role,” the authors note.

Some employers (about one-fifth of the companies analyzed by the study) have made inroads in implementing skills-based hiring—but that progress is uneven. These “backslider” employers, the study authors found, initially improve their efforts to hire degree-less candidates but eventually regress and hire fewer such workers in the long term.

There’s plenty of evidence to support the impact of skills-based hiring. Research shows it can be five times better at predicting a candidate’s job performance than their education. And there’s a lot of opportunity to implement the approach more broadly—the study authors calculated that there are at least 250,000 jobs, across a range of industries, where skills-based hiring is not currently used but could be applied.

As Inc. has previously reported, employers who want to start implementing the approach in their business should consider using more inclusive language in job descriptions, setting up exercises that test applicants on a wide range of skills, and ensuring managers are adequately trained on the approach.


(c) 2024 Mansueto Ventures LLC; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.