Your next employer is more interested in your skills than your degrees

Fewer Americans are obtaining college degrees and employers are shifting their focus to an applicant's skill set.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
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The job market has taken many new shapes and forms during the past three years since the COVID-19 pandemic transformed how we work. And now as companies push for return-to-office initiatives, generative AI shakes up the hiring market, and more young people enter the workforce, employers are looking for different qualities in employees than in the past.

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According to Bloomberg, LinkedIn is anticipating that employers and employees will ditch the formal qualifications that were once staples in the job-seeking and hiring processes. Instead of degrees and prior experience, employers will shift their focus to an applicant's skill set.

Employees are also taking more time to complete online courses and receive specialized certifications to make themselves more desirable to employers. Bloomberg points to LinkedIn's skills-matching feature that allows users to list their skills and enables employers to find candidates based on the capabilities they need.

Almost half (45%) of recruiters on the site search for candidates based on specific skills, according to LinkedIn. In the tech industry, a worker can be self-taught or can complete a list of online courses and certifications to land themselves a job.

And the fast-changing nature of the tech industry means companies are always looking for highly skilled and specialized workers to take on hard-to-fill positions. Last year, companies like Apple, IBM, Google, and Meta announced they would hire candidates without college degrees.

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These companies sought engineers, data analysts, and hackers; not all positions were entry-level. Bloomberg reports that it's much easier to hire individuals for these positions without degrees because the roles often have concrete, standardized testing to prove individual proficiency.

But more abstract skills, like storytelling and team leadership, are harder to corroborate. Joseph Fuller, a management professor at Harvard Business School, told Bloomberg that companies rely on a candidate possessing a degree because their grasp of abstract skills is harder to prove.

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By holding a degree, employers can assume that prospective employees learned valuable skills at school, such as critical thinking, information seeking, and communication.

But as more young Americans opt out of college, employers are being forced to reckon with a new way of hiring employees. 

Will this new form of hiring push a four-year degree from the qualifications section of a job listing to the preferred characteristics section? Or will a degree remain the key accomplishment that people can count on to find and keep a job?

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