College Major, College Schmajor

Author: Hillary Roberts | Source: HCI | Published: August 5, 2010

As today’s talent pool grows in numbers, the variety in candidate diversity, age and experience increases in turn.  In this turbulent and challenging job market, it has become increasingly important to look beyond traditional hiring standards to what’s new in terms of what perspective hires can bring to the table.  Looking for a new hire in your marketing department?  I say look beyond the stacks of resumes from various marketing majors fresh out of college, further, look beyond those marketing MBAs with impressive transcripts.  If a candidate possesses ingenuity and perseverance, it is irrelevant what degree they have.  

We are in a world in which companies are forced to compete on a global level.  In order to do so, business practices need to be reexamined across the board; talent acquisition is a great place to start.  Companies should be looking for employees who have the skills and adaptability needed to succeed in an ever-changing business environment.  Candidates need to be reliable, flexible, intuitive, cooperative, and have the ability to multi-task.  They should be evaluated by their drive, creativity and their performance, not by what degree they received.  Just ask college drop-outs like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson who didn’t need any college major whatsoever.  

"Most college degrees don't necessarily qualify the graduate for anything," says Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, a book about American intelligence. Mr. Murray argues that a college education and more specifically, the degree attained is inconsequential in terms of future employment.  "Walk into Microsoft or Google with evidence that you're a brilliant hacker, and the job interviewer is not going to fret if you lack a college transcript," Murray says. He states that if a potential hire provides evidence in an interview of their unique worth without a specific college degree, they have a much greater chance of being hired than they would have had in the past.  

In previous generations, jobs and salaries were direct representations of the degree attained in college.  Students were judged by how much they knew in a niche subject and the job they attained later in life reflected their grasp on the related knowledge.  Skills were more specific, and candidates could easily be identified based on what was studied in school.  Today, this is not the case.  With the uncertainty of the current economic state, it is highly conceivable that the more specialized and technical occupations will be susceptible to fluctuations in the job market. As the American workforce competes with the rest of the world for jobs,  applicants with both determination and a wide range of skills have the upper hand.  Those with a broad array of skills are looking more and more appealing.  

Roger Martin, the dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, is in the process of the first "liberal arts MBA."  Martin is not the only one who is thinking along those lines.  David Garvin, a professor at the Harvard Business School and co-author of Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads had this to say, "Is business education becoming more like the liberal arts? If the question is, 'are we trying to teach more about how to be a well-rounded human being who happens to be practicing business,' the answer is absolutely, 'yes.'"  The current movement to make business students "more well rounded human beings who happen to practice business." Garvin goes further to say that by embracing a liberal arts approach to business, managers will be more apt to be innovative and creative thinkers who are able to visualize long-term goals as well as think outside of the box when it comes to conflict and challenges.  

When you look at your organization, and take into account the fact that the economy may plausibly continue along this unpredictable path, are you satisfied and confident with your talent? Or are you nervous about what the future may bring?   If you are on the prowl for new talent with a fresh outlook, look beyond the obvious candidate with the impeccable niche track record.  Take a chance on the well-rounded applicant who has the ability to take your business to the next level.  Their intellect and drive will make the difference, not their college degree.  


Image:  Oberazzi