Education Vs. Experience? What Matters Most When it Comes to Hiring?

Feb 24, 2020

This subject has been long debated among companies and hiring managers when it comes to drafting their criteria for specific roles within their company. You will most overtly get a feel for how a company operates in respects to ones education and/or experience by looking at a job description that they have recently published for their staffing and/or recruiting needs. Often times you will see within a job description some heading that reads “mandatory criteria” or “required/requirements” for the role. More often than not you will see a minimum for an educational requirement. It may state a that a bachelor’s degree within the respective specialty is required or a Honors, or MBA, or PhD, I mean it is all relative to the role and the companies asking and who they are trying to recruit.

Now granted, if a company is going to attempt to fill a staffing position or recruit someone via a job board or by positing a position, then these “required” fields are a great way to eliminate receiving 10,000 applicants that are not a fit simply by excluding them based on their formal education. Well, although in many roles this can be a good starting point, not everything that makes someone great can be found on a resume and some companies are better at knowing this than others. For Example, their are sales positions that many companies offer that don’t necessarily require a particular type of formal education that will either confirm or deny that a candidate is great at sales?

Am I wrong? Sure, you could have someone with 5 years of sales experience and prior to that studied sales in University, a more recent program that is now being offered in the United States. You could also have someone with 5 years of sales experience but they have a Bachelor’s Degree in English. In this example, if the company or hiring manager mandated that a formal sales education, was a prerequisite for even qualifying for a phone screen or interview, this candidate with the English Degree would be eliminated from the process for not meeting the required criteria. In our popular opinion, here at Axe Recruiting, this would be a mistake.

The individual with an English Degree needs to be phone screened at a minimum, yes this is more work but it is worth investigating. This person has gained 5 years of education in sales through practical application in the field. This has likely multiplied their education on sales more than any classroom environment would have. Of course, they may be missing some formal knowledge and the understanding of some commonly used acronyms, but for the most part, if they were good at their job, they picked up a lot along the way and learned how to apply lessons learned through practical experience, into wins and best practices. This can be said about any role within a company.

Now of course, their are some legal requirements, certifications, dissertations and accredits others went through to prove their competency in a certain space, for example a lawyer. One must have passed the Bar exam to be able to practice. In this case, a company has no choice and a responsibility to to hire people with the proper formal credentials as a minimum requirement. However, for positions where you do not, it is important to learn where a candidate that you are considering for recruitment may make up for their lack of education with raw talent, life experience or an abnormally high aptitude for a particular skill. I’ve met a 15 year old who can code and program in their sleep and they haven’t even started their formal education yet, they just have an innate ability and talent for that skill and develop it themselves outside of a formal institution. These types of people should not be overlooked.

This is why it can be advantageous for companies to leverage an outside staffing and recruiting agency, especially if your primary sourcing strategy is posting the job opening on Indeed. Great staffing and recruiting firms will proactively engage with candidates, meaning, they will look for the talent proactively, versus sifting through applicants that came in via the job boards. In doing so, the recruiters will find highly motivated and gainfully employed candidates, but only so much can be seen from a resume or LinkedIn profile. This is where the upfront phone screening that a recruiter can offer is worth its weight in gold for the hiring manager. We at Axe Recruiting have formulated a very specific series of questions that have nothing to do with the role itself, upfront, when we first speak with candidates. We get to know the person, their motivations, desires, dislikes and skills all through a rapport building process prior to going into details about a role. Through this process we can easily begin to quantify and qualify and individuals motivation and aptitude for the position, the two most important variables when hiring anyone anywhere. If throughout that process we uncover an individual who actually does meet the skills required to fulfill the role but does not have the formal education, we will present this information to the hiring manager when submitting the candidate and review the submission together to explain why they are being put through.

You have to stand by your processes and abilities as a recruiter and many staffing and recruiting agencies are “yes men.” They will un-waveringly follow the requirements written out in front of them by the client. Now, I am not saying to go rogue and completely disregard what they are asking for, but I am suggesting that they hired outside help for a reason, and perhaps a different approach or process can lead to uncovering some great talent that had gone overlooked or was not uncovered before.

Of course, if you can find the perfect candidate who can check every single box then go for it, these people should be top of list and prioritized, but sometimes their are really great candidates out there that just require a little more detective work on the part of the recruiter to qualify them and potentially get a hire that you otherwise may not have. If a recruiter or recruiting agency is just throwing resumes your way as if they were an Indeed job board themselves, something is wrong and a company and hiring manager are going to continue to waste time and burn cycles on reviewing the wrong people.

A manager needs to decide if they are going to put the extra hours into truly investigating what someone’s resume versus their life resume looks like, by digging deeper into candidates who are just shy of qualifying for the role by a lack of formal education you may very well uncover competencies that you may not have otherwise seen if you took the resume at face value. Or, you can trust a staffing and recruiting agency to do this extra work on your behalf and add an extra layer of thorough qualification of potential hires before they even cross your desk. Either way, more work is always required when it comes to hiring the right people and qualifying people and reviewing resumes and phone screens should not be something that is taken lightly, this is the future of the company and the people who make that company up we are talking about.