An anonymous reader asks:
I don’t have a degree, and [potential employer] is pushing back on making me put down high school diploma as my only completed education since I don’t have a BS yet. So, What would you do if HR is pushing back on requiring a degree, but the job itself doesn’t require it?
With many companies, the request for a 4-year degree is often just a baseline request. Ever since the 1970s and 1980s when everyone decided that every kid needed to go to college, job requirements just bumped up to make that an assumption. It’s ridiculous; apart from the basic stuff every college kid gets in their freshman year, there’s nothing similar about degrees other than “you got through 4 years of education.” It’s not like demanding a BS in Biology for hiring a biologist; that would make sense. It’s a specific degree that serves as a foundation for specific job requirements. Just asking for any old degree is nothing more than misguided HR policy.
I’d come back with something like this:
“So, I’d like to push back a little on this. As I’m sure you know, degrees are less common in fast-moving industries like IT, where more high-performing individuals tend to be self-taught. You don’t learn ‘disruption’ in college, after all, amiright lol? So I was wondering where your priority on a degree was coming from in this case, especially since you haven’t specified a kind of degree. Is there something specific about this position that you feel aligns to a particular college degree? If it’s just intended as a way of ensuring a certain baseline of knowledge, I think my actual on-the-job real-life work history would cover that, and I’d be happy to go over that again with you, if it’d help. I do know that it’s sometimes useful for companies to specify something like a 4-year degree as a kind of baseline to help ensure a more qualified pool of candidates, but in this case I feel that we’ve moved past that basic barrier. Would you agree?”
“That said, if there’s something specific about the job that demands a particular degree, or a particular bit of education that you’d expect all degrees to come with, then I’d certainly like to better understand that. If my real-world experience hasn’t provided that to me already, I’d like to be honest with you about my qualifications.”
If you do in fact have job experience, then that should cover the “we just want to see that you know how to commit to something for at least 4 years” requirement, which is literally the only thing guaranteed when you’re asking for “any old 4 year degree.” Politely ask them to justify that: what is it about a degree that you need? What is it about my actual hands-on, real-world experience that doesn’t fill that same need? Assuming you’re not a 19 year-old with zero work experience, press a bit.
And then accept the fact that some companies are so mired in their HR policies that they won’t bend. And ask yourself if you’d really want to work there. HR, like Legal, should advise, not direct; when the HR team gets to set policy through arbitrary “baseline” requirements that are absolute and inflexible… that’s a preview of what working for the company is gonna be like.