Why Employers Are Increasingly Ditching Degree Requirements in Job Ads

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For Maurice Jones, the way many employers have approached job postings is problematic on multiple fronts. For candidates, the language in postings often amounts to an invisible barrier that prevents them from applying — even when they have the skills to do the job. For employers, it limits applications and causes them to overpay.

Degree requirements are the big focus for Jones, who previously led OneTen, a national initiative that aims to hire, promote and advance 1 million Black individuals who do not have a four-year degree into family-sustaining careers over the next 10 years. 

Jones called degree requirements “a great invisible barrier.”

“Get this, a company brought me a coding job that had a four-year degree requirement, which means that my four-year degree in political science would position me better to get an interview for that coding job than someone who did an eight-week boot camp in coding,” he said. 

That leaves candidates on the sidelines and employers paying a premium for credentials that are completely unrelated to the actual job. 

Rather than focusing on degrees, Jones said companies should be focused on skills-based hiring. 

And, at a time when talent is tough to come by, data suggests more employers are getting the message. 

A new analysis by workforce data firm Revelio Labs found the share of job postings requiring at least a bachelor’s degree fell from 52.5% in April 2020 to 47.2% November 2022.

Meanwhile, employers are also adding more specific skills to their job ads, with the average number of skills listed per job inching up from 37 to 38.6.

The focus on skills over degrees helps reduce the effects of what Revelio Labs calls “the paper ceiling.” Of Americans age 25 and older, roughly 38% have a bachelor’s degree or higher, which means most people are potentially left out of jobs even if those positions don’t truly require a bachelor’s degree.

“The general trend is one of decreasing formal educational requirements across the board, across the economy,” said Lisa Simon, a senior economist with Revelio Labs. “And that’s exactly what we expect to see in a tight labor market.”

Simon said the recovery from the Covid pandemic has brought with it a tight labor market, and employers searching for talent and more applicants are removing formal degree requirements. 

“I think employers are finally ready to embrace this and omit less formal requirements and instead increase the skill requirements,” Simon said.

She said for a long time, employers used formal education, such as degrees, as ways to easily screen applicants. It’s harder to screen for skills in nontechnical fields. Now, companies are increasingly interested in getting more applicants in the door. 

So how can companies make the shift to a skills-first approach?

“The No. 1 best practice is this has to be a CEO priority,” he said. “The organizations that are doing the best at this are the ones where the CEO unambiguously prioritizes it and everybody knows it.”

CEOs need to empower those across the company to make it work.

Tactically, companies need to take a line-by-line look at job descriptions and job postings. 

Many artificial barriers to hiring may be lurking in boilerplate text that has lingered on job descriptions for years. Companies must take the time to root that out. 

Once that’s done, employers need to take a hard look at every role and determine which specific skills are necessary. 

Those answers will allow companies to craft job ads that focus on the actual skill sets for the job, rather than potentially arbitrary degrees or credentials. 


Source:  Andy Medici – Senior Reporter, The Playbook, The Business Journals