Educational Requirements in Hiring: The Key to Building a More Diverse & Inclusive Workforce

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f you are a hiring manager or HR professional you’ve probably heard the term “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”, or DEI, a lot recently. Across all industries, managers want to improve their employee population by making it more diverse and inclusive.  However, due to implicit biases in the hiring process and a general resistance to change, it’s proving to be more difficult than it sounds. So why aren't companies seeing a significantly more diverse pool of candidates despite publicly announcing their commitment to DEI? One major barrier lies in the inflated educational requirements for many positions today. 

Let me give you an example.

At Tablecloth, we have partnered with a technology company struggling with a limited pool of diverse candidates to fill their software engineering roles. It is a well known fact that software engineers tend to be overwhelmingly White and/or male, with 53.9% being White and 67% being male. There are many reasons for this but the overarching cause is simply due to a lack of access to skilled, high earning positions. Historically, women and minorities have been systematically excluded from science and technology roles due to cultural biases and large barriers of entry. First, a Bachelor’s degree was required, then a Master’s degree to make you more competitive, and that’s on top of the many certifications you can earn to make yourself more marketable to employers. If you’re a woman, living with a disability, a person of color, or live in a rural and/or low income area — the exact people hiring managers say they want to attract — degrees are often much more difficult to obtain.

There's a solution to this problem, one that many top companies such as Google, Apple, and IBM have implemented: no longer require employees to have a college degree for roles that do not truly necessitate them.

Requiring a Bachelor's degree for a job automatically screens out over 70% of African-Americans, 80% of Latinx workers, and over 80% of rural Americans of all races. This singular act of dropping such credentials makes these positions available to millions of skilled and hardworking people who otherwise would not be considered for an interview. With this new pool of people comes fresh perspectives and ideas that can positively impact the growth of a company. In lieu of a college degree, managers can seek candidates with certifications or degrees from online courses and bootcamps, and even provide further training specific to their role at the company.

At the end of the day, employers want skilled workers. Those skills can be obtained in a myriad of ways. Why limit ourselves to one type of candidate when there is so much to be offered by candidates with diverse backgrounds of education and experience? As previously stated, we are working with a technology company that is facing this same issue. We will continue to track their progress in hiring as they lift their educational requirements for their software engineers. But if you’re a manager seeking to increase DEI in your next hiring cycle, try reconsidering your educational requirements. You could be inadvertently excluding great candidates from varied backgrounds who can bring significant value to the table and drive change.


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