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Removing degree requirements to shift to skills-based job descriptions

In today's job market, finding the right talent is important for any organization's success. But the conventional approach of requiring unnecessary degrees in job postings might not be as effective an approach for sourcing talent as we once believed.

Recently, organizations have reconsidered requiring degrees as research shows that unnecessary degree requirements deter potentially qualified candidates from applying. More alarmingly, these requirements disproportionately affect certain demographics, limiting diversity and inclusion within organizations.

Read on to learn why it’s worth reimagining degree requirements in job descriptions to produce more diverse pipeline outcomes and find out why companies like Walmart are adopting this change.

How requiring degrees leads to exclusive hiring

Degree requirements can often serve as a barrier that prevents a diverse array of talented individuals from even considering certain job opportunities. This is because insisting on specific degrees filters out candidates based on their educational background rather than the skills they bring or their potential to perform the job. That leads to an exclusive hiring process that lacks diversity, resulting in a homogeneous workforce.

In fact, research shows that requiring unnecessary degrees in job posts disproportionately harms Black, Hispanic, rural, and veteran applicants.

This fact paints a stark picture of exclusion rooted in arbitrary degree demands. The consequences extend far beyond individual opportunities; they impede businesses' potential to harness a wide array of talents and perspectives. Recognizing this, the need for change has never been more pressing.

Looking globally, Ernst and Young, a major new graduate employer in the UK, decided in 2015 to eliminate degree classification from its hiring program prerequisites. This decision came after the organization determined there was "no evidence" of a relationship between university success and achieving professional qualifications.

Skills-based hiring for a more inclusive workforce

Skills-based hiring or focusing on evaluating candidates based on their skills rather than on their education, not only identifies candidates with the right expertise but also cultivates a more inclusive work environment.

A shift towards skills-based hiring can mitigate disparities and promote a more inclusive workforce. This approach values the skills and competencies a candidate brings to the table, rather than the educational qualifications they possess. In essence, it’s not about where you learned but what you learned and how you can apply it.

Firms like Apple, Google, and IBM are among the pioneers in this movement, acknowledging that the future of work is not confined to traditional degree programs. In fact, LinkedIn research shows that employers who find talent using skills are 60% more likely to make a successful hire than those who don’t use skill evaluation as part of their hiring process.

By shifting their focus towards skills and abilities rather than degrees, these companies are able to tap into a larger pool of qualified candidates and promote diversity within their workforce.

Adapting job descriptions for a skills-based approach

To adopt a skills-based approach, it's important to first evaluate the specific skills and competencies needed in a particular role. This involves identifying key responsibilities and requirements and then translating them into relevant skills, such as communication, problem-solving, teamwork, etc. These skills should then be clearly stated in job descriptions, along with any preferred or desired qualifications.

In addition to skills-based requirements, it's also crucial to create an inclusive, welcoming, and bias-free job description that encourages individuals from diverse backgrounds to apply. This can be achieved by using gender-neutral language, avoiding discriminatory terms, and emphasizing the company's commitment to diversity and inclusion.

How we do skills-based job descriptions at Textio

At Textio we urge employers to prioritize listing specific skills and experiences required for a job, superseding the traditional fixation on degrees.

When writing a job post and considering what skills are needed for a specific role, it’s important to remember that not everyone has equal access to education, and we account for the fact that financial and social disparities can limit individuals' ability to pursue a degree. Requiring unnecessary degrees disproportionately affects those from lower-income backgrounds and underrepresented communities.

When a hiring manager wants to require a degree, we ask that manager to consider what added experience a degree might offer a candidate for a position than a candidate without a degree.

According to Rachel Cupples, Senior Recruiter at Textio, “Depending on the role we’re hiring for, I work with the manager to unpack the need for a degree versus the value of skills a potential candidate may have obtained from work experience and see how those align with the skills the hiring manager is looking for.”

We also acknowledge the significance of specific professional degrees mandated by states for certain professions, striking a balance between essential qualifications and the pursuit of inclusive hiring practices.

Try a tool like Textio Loop to analyze and improve your job descriptions to ensure they're more inclusive and effective at attracting more diverse candidate pools. Excluding unnecessary degree requirements improves your Textio Score, helping you to diversify your talent pipeline.

The power of inclusive job descriptions

To actively contribute to forging a more diverse and inclusive workforce, organizations should look to recalibrate their job descriptions. Removing unnecessary degree requirements and shifting to a skills-based hiring model can vastly broaden talent pipelines. This, in turn, can lead to more diverse and inclusive hiring outcomes, resulting in a stronger workforce and ultimately driving business success.

Recent studies reinforce the transformative power of inclusive job descriptions. For instance, a study by Totaljobs found that gender-neutral language can increase the number of applicants by up to 42%.

This research underscores the profound impact of inclusive language in drawing a more diverse pool of talent, and the positive ripple effect it has on fostering diversity and inclusion within organizations.

Pro tip: you can also attract more diverse talent, promote fairness and equity, and improve hiring efficiency by being transparent about pay in your job descriptions.

The impact of inclusive hiring

Rethinking degree requirements in job descriptions is a necessary step towards a more diverse, inclusive workforce. By shifting the focus to skills-based hiring, organizations can attract a wider pool of qualified candidates while also fostering an environment that celebrates diversity.

Adapting job descriptions to reflect this approach and using tools like Textio Loop can help organizations make this transition seamlessly.

Find out how your pipeline could change by improving your language. Textio can analyze your public job posts and determine what changes you could see in the demographics of your pipeline with our Pipeline Diversity Calculator. 

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