Don’t Be Too Quick to Criticize Harvard

In a past article, an amazing number of people weighed-in to trash professional education in favor of practical experience. Some of the commentators supported their position by citing three industry leaders without degrees who lead successful companies; maintaining that recruiting is an art, as well as a serious profession; or, arguing that some ERE authors are unqualified because they have never recruited. I hope the majority of people do not take these comments too seriously. These arguments may sound attractive, but are all seriously wrong-headed – and some are even dangerous.

For example: The “I Know People Who Are Highly Successful Without a Degree” Argument

  • As pointed out by one reader, if education is unimportant, why do you suppose smart and successful folks like Gates, Dell, and others insist that their new employees are educated? Education does not make someone successful, but neither does self-imposed ignorance.
  • How much do you think the explosive growth of computers contributed to Gates’s and Dell’s company success? Would they have been as successful starting a business in, say, aluminum siding?
  • There are exceptions to every rule; that’s why they are called exceptions.

The “Recruiting Is An Art, As Well As a Serious Profession” Argument

  • This is a complete oxymoron. A serious profession keeps up with the latest research in the field. It does not depend on short workshops and personal experience. We can learn much from past mistakes and experience of experts.
  • Can anyone please explain why some of the most vocal people in this field insist on defending 50 years of error-prone hiring practices based on job descriptions and interviews? Even the greenest recruiter knows they are sorry tools.
  • I cannot wait to find a list of serious professions that totally dismiss the value of education.

The “You’re Wrong Because You Have Never Done It” Argument

  • Think about it. This argument places each person squarely in the world of “I’m the center of my own universe; therefore, if I never heard of it, it must be wrong.” Maybe we should all agree that because most of us never actually studied infectious diseases, doctors who recommend hand-washing must be wrong.
  • No two people have identical job histories. Mine includes being a hiring manager, trainer, and psychometrician. This may be different from someone else’s background, but we both share the same problem: separating good applicants from the poor ones. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like a wise person learns something by examining all points of view.

Now, About the Competency Thing

No one should be surprised when I say that describing human behavior is a Tower of Babel. Everyone has his or her own personal definition – even within a single organization. This leads to the wrong job requirements, hiring the wrong people, rejecting the right ones, value-less workshops, and confusing performance expectations. The symptoms of Babel can be seen in every job order where the recruiter and hiring manager think they have a clear understanding about job requirements, but change from one candidate to the next. The symptoms can be seen in cases where a candidate looks promising but fails after a few months on the job. They can be seen when a recruiter defaults to a strategy of comparing one candidate against another, instead of to job requirements. Lastly, symptoms can be seen in the persistence of the wrong-headed belief that interviews are not tests, even though they are used to screen applicants. I wrote several articles about competencies in 2002. The competencies are the same today.

Specifically, the word “competence” is derived from the Latin word “competere” meaning “suitable.” Merriam-Webster defines competence as “having requisite or adequate ability or qualities.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the ability to do something to a level that is acceptable.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines competence as “properly or sufficiently qualified; capable.” So, what definition is more useful? Defining competencies as a beginning or end-state? Here is an excerpt from what one company calls a “fully-researched, scaled, and validated behavioral and functional competency model.”

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Achievement Orientation: Sets highly challenging, but attainable, goals for own organizational area; assesses group performance against goals and identifies areas for improvement; improves inefficient/ineffective work processes; uses positive motivational approaches tailored to diverse individuals and groups to help staff improve performance and maximize results achieved; and, encourages responsible risk-taking to achieve high-quality results.

What’s right with this model? It lets the subordinate know there are certain expectations for the job. It sounds good. What’s wrong with this model? It is confounded with multiple expectations. Objectives are exceptionally difficult, if not impossible, to attribute to a specific job holder. It is subject to innumerable forces that either help or hinder accomplishment. And, it tells you little, if anything, about what skills to look for in an applicant. Furthermore, the terms “fully researched,” “scaled,” and “validated” will probably mislead clients into unrealistic expectations. It is the kind of competency model that will initially be celebrated, but will lose credibility within a few years because of its complexity. Now consider this model from another source.

Effectively organizes others: Evaluates processes and results, and makes appropriate adjustments to the plan; sets, communicates, and monitors priorities for activities; ensures that systems are in place to effectively monitor and evaluate progress.

What’s right with this model? It is much clearer. Since is it relatively pure, it can be used to evaluate an applicant’s planning and organizing skills easily, it can transfer from job to job, it is somewhat trainable, it can be easily adapted to a variety of jobs, and it is a precursor to a wide range of job-performance standards. What’s wrong with this model? Managers may think it is too simplistic and it may be harder to sell because it is not filled with buzzwords.

The Luddites

About 200 years ago, unskilled textile workers felt their jobs were threatened by automated machinery. Its supposed leader, Ned Ludd, organized groups of workers to break into factories and destroy machines that made stockings. Unprepared or frustrated folks are almost always threatened by new technology. So, it is not unusual to read so many strong reactions from people determined to defend the only way of recruiting they know. The job is difficult, and if done well, it is even more challenging. But that is the job. And any job worth doing is worth doing well. As I said earlier, education may not be the whole answer, but I am pretty sure that self-imposed ignorance is a lot worse.

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36 Comments on “Don’t Be Too Quick to Criticize Harvard

  1. It’s not that Harvard doesn’t teach you anything, it’s that what Harvard teaches you is how to succeed at Harvard.

    Who’s better: a B student from Harvard, or an A student from Tufts? Not so long ago, plenty of top-name employers would recruit undergrads at Harvard but not bother to drive 15 minutes west on Mass Ave. to visit my alma mater. If they could fill their bucket at Harvard, why shop anywhere else?

    The truth was that while getting into Harvard was a real accomplishment, graduating with a 3.0 GPA was not. Harvard in particular has gone through a lot of conflict internally over grade inflation, while Tufts, while I was there, was quite happy to flunk people out.

    Now, what does a liberal arts degree teach you of professional value? Mostly it’s the discipline of the work. To the extent that college admissions and SAT scores are a proxy for IQ and g, sure, it’s relevant whether someone got into Harvard or Tufts. But would you rather hire a pretty smart person who worked their butt off, or a really smart person content to be part of the comfortable bottom third?

    OK, so this is a subject I’m a little prickly about 😉 As Elaine once said on a Seinfeld episode, ‘Look, I went to Tufts. It was my safety school. So don’t talk to me about disappointment.’ (Written into the script by one of my classmate’s older siblings, who was a writer for the show, as a graduation present!)

    Actually, that joke brings up another valid point: colleges that were known as ‘Ivy League Safety Schools’ in the early 90s, are today top-tier ‘reach’ schools now that the gen-Y demographic bubble is upon us. As the admissions director put it to me the week before I graduated, ‘If your class were applying today, 75% of you wouldn’t get in.’

    The truth is that ‘brand’ has just as much to do with education as it does with anything else. While a person’s undergraduate pedigree is not meaningless, I would offer that what precisely it means is rarely adequately summed up in the phrase, ‘she went to Harvard.’ But for plenty of people, this is enough. This isn’t scientific selection: it’s unthinking brand loyalty.

  2. Larry Ellison Allegedly Did NOT Really make this speech but it is really funny and Poignant based upon this article –

    Subject: Graduation speech

    I thought you would get a kick out of this speech that Larry Ellison (Oracle CEO) gave at Yale University to the Graduating class of 2000. What follows is a transcript of the speech delivered by Ellison at Yale University last month:

    ‘Graduates of Yale University, I apologize if you have endured this type of prologue before, but I want you to do something for me. Please, take a good look around you. Look at the classmate on your left. Look at the classmate on your right. Now, consider this: five years from now, 10 years from now, even 30 thirty years from now, odds are the person on your left is going to be a loser. The person on your right, meanwhile, will also be a loser. And you, in the middle? What can you expect? Loser. Loserhood. Loser Cum Laude.

    In fact, as I look out before me today, I don’t see a thousand hopes for a bright tomorrow. I don’t see a thousand future leaders in a thousand industries. I see a thousand losers. You’re upset. That’s understandable.

    After all, how can I, Lawrence ‘Larry’ Ellison, college dropout, have the audacity to spout such heresy to the graduating class of one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions? I’ll tell you why. Because I, Lawrence ‘Larry’ Ellison, second richest man on the planet, am a college dropout, and you are not. Because Bill Gates, richest man on the planet-for now anyway-is a college dropout, and you are not. Because Paul Allen, the third richest man on the planet, dropped out of college, and you did not. And for good measure, because Michael Dell, No. 9 on the list and moving up fast, is a college dropout, and you, yet again, are not.

    Hmm … you’re very upset. That’s understandable. So let me stroke your egos for a moment by pointing out, quite sincerely, that your diplomas were not attained in vain. Most of you, I imagine, have spent four to five years here, and in many ways what you’ve learned and endured will serve you well in the years ahead. You’ve established good work habits. You’ve established a network of people that will help you down the road. And you’ve established what will be lifelong relationships with the word ‘therapy.’ All that of is good. For in truth, you will need that network. You will need those strong work habits.

    You will need that therapy. You will need them because you didn’t drop out, and so you will never be among the richest people in the world. Oh sure, you may, perhaps, work your way up to #10 or #11, like Steve Ballmer. But then,I don’t have to tell you who he really works for, do I?

    And for the record, he dropped out of grad school. Bit of a late bloomer.

    Finally, I realize that many of you, and hopefully by now most of you,are wondering, ‘Is there anything I can do? Is there any hope for me at all?’ Actually, no. It’s too late. You’ve absorbed too much, think you know too much. You’re not 19 anymore. You have a built-in cap, and I’m not referring to the mortarboards on your heads.

    Hmm … you’re really very upset. That’s understandable.

    So perhaps this would be a good time to bring up the silver lining. Not for you, Class of ’00. You are a write-off, so I’ll let you slink off to your pathetic $200,000-a-year jobs, where your checks will be signed by former classmates who dropped out two years ago.

    Instead, I want to give hope to any underclassmen here today. I say to you, and I can’t stress this enough:

    LEAVE. Pack your things and your ideas and don’t come back. Drop out. Start up. For I can tell you that a cap and gown will keep you down just as surely as these security guards dragging me off this stage are keeping me dow…’

    (At this point The Oracle CEO was ushered off stage.)

    Allegedly The rumor is actually a fiction piece from a satire/humor website

  3. Okay, Humor Aside (see my previous post re Larry Ellison and Yale) would like to take an opt. to address a few comments made in this article.

    Before I continue I would like to make Clear that I am not anti Formal Education, but as a Person whose job involves Employment I am dismayed to see Education Being used as a tool that could Have a Disparate Impact against Extremely Qualified but Not formally educated Individuals.
    The ones who were unable to have the Opportunity to be able to have that successful Education due to Real Life Circumstances.

    So Let?s start with Microsoft ? I know for a FACT that Microsoft will Not Discriminate utilizing Education Only Requirements ? They indeed have and are hiring individuals based upon Competency and experience regardless of Formal Schooling Education.

    I wonder is it because they know that Relying on Education Only for selection of Applicants could be considered creating a Disparate and Unfair, Unequal access to Employment?

    Quoted directly from the EEOC Manual
    ?Educational requirements obviously may be important for certain jobs. For example, graduation from medical school is required to practice medicine. However, employers often impose educational requirements out of their own sense of desirable qualifications. Such requirements may run afoul of Title VII if they have a disparate impact and exceed what is needed to perform the job. As the Supreme Court stated in one of its earliest interpretations of Title VII: ?History is filled with examples of men and women who rendered highly effective performance without the conventional badges of accomplishment in terms of certificates, diplomas, or degrees. Diplomas and tests are useful servants, but Congress has mandated the commonsense proposition that they are not to become masters of reality?

    Well based upon this information please tell me ? why does someone who has successful experience and tenure in for example Recruiting or Even Human Resources Have to have a Degree?
    One may say exception to the Rule, but there are Many successful individuals in our midst who have accomplished more than enough without a degree.

    Sheepskin – A piece of Sheepskin – to use that over experience to detemine the Validity of a Candidates Worth, instead of looking at their Successes, well that is and would be foolhardy to ANY company.

    Is Education necessary, Yes of course. Being the best in your trade, up to date with information is absolutely relevant. BUT Does one need to be in a formal School Environment to learn this information? No, it May help some, as there are individuals who need that type of structure, to do well; but Schools are Not the only place to receive information or education.

    Interesting Fact – Many books written by industry leaders which utilized in Educational Facilities are in fact not often Written by individuals who have a degree..

    Recently I was in a discussion regarding the story of Microsoft and it?s founders ? someone was debating how the business had started. The way I look at it is that a very Educated (PHD) but stupid man decided to go fishing and miss the opportunity of lifetime instead of attending a very important business meeting with IBM, Nah, he leaves his wife to handle the deal for him at the home front.
    .. Another person who was not educated, but had Business Savvy, created and Seized the opportunity to make one of the most important companies in the world. The PHD guy ended up crying in a beer for the rest of his life.

    Is that an exception ? No, of course Not, As a Recruiter I have seen some Really educated people do and say some really dumb things, and on the other side of the coin, some really Smart but not formally educated individuals create opportunities, fame and glory ?
    Passion! Passion is what makes good business, great employees, great Managers! Passion and the ability to see, seize and grow with opportunity.

    Some men are graduated from college cum laude, some are graduated summa cum laude, and some are graduated mirabile dictu.
    William Howard Taft (1857-1930) 27th U.S. President (1909- 13)
    Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
    Oscar Wilde (1856-1900) British poet and dramatist. The Critic as Artist.

  4. Would you want your child to drop out of school or graduate from an Ivy League college?
    Would you rather have a Yugo or a Mercedes?
    Would you rather have a candidate with ‘Harvard’ on his resume or one from a community college?

    The questions are rhetorical. Brands matter.

    There are professions such as Investment Banking, Management Consulting, and top law firms which only hire from a few universities (Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Northwestern, Penn, and Yale). Why?

    1. Probably because leaders of these firms graduated from the same schools

    2. The brands that these schools are contain information that makes deciding between two nearly equal candidates easy. Either you went to a ‘top’ school or you didn’t.

    The ‘top’ schools then get their choice of students since all students know that to get into these schools means getting into an exclusive profession. So it’s a virtuous cycle.

    Certainly, there are exceptions to the rule. And they’ve been mentioned ad nauseum in this discussion. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, by the way, not out of some community college and that he did speaks to how compelling the opportunity to start Microsoft was.

    As recruiters, our networks matter so our pedigrees help us out to the degree that they enhance our networks. Beyond that, the day-to-day work of recruiting is similar to that of selling mortgages or real estate, isn’t it?

    In hustle jobs, what truly counts is hustle. Only when the recruiting function is scaled up, say at the large recruiting firms and corporate ‘internal recruiting agencies’, does complexity rise high enough that a Harvard-style intellect makes a difference.

    As economists say, ‘at the margin,’ brands matter. Whether you graduated from Harvard or not certainly doesn’t define your destiny. On balance though, I’d take Harvard.

  5. A long time ago, in a place not so far from here, a friend of mine and myself were belly-aching, at the ripe old age of twenty, that our college studies were a pain in the ass and some of them were just too hard. ?What did it really matter if we finished?? was the real message we were trying to get across to my friend?s middle-aged attorney father.

    ?I don?t give a rat?s ass what your grades are ? just get the damned degree! There were plenty of courses in law school (he attended Duke) when I was glad to get a D just to pass!? he exclaimed. No solace here so we retreated to my house.

    ?Waaaah ? it?s so HARD to get up at 7 a.m. to drive the 30 minutes to school ? the traffic?s so bad and it takes us twice as long as it should and it?s so easy to get parking tickets…? ?I don?t give a rat?s ass how long it takes you to get to school or how many parking tickets you rack up ? just get the damned degree! I never had the opportunity to go to college ? be thankful you have it!? my father yelled.

    We took our sorry butts off to school ? one of us took a year or so longer to complete but matriculate we did and today we?re both glad we did, and though neither of us were shining star 4.0 pupils we didn?t do too bad. And both of us have enjoyed a modicum of success that has its foundations in determination and stick-to-it-tiveness (he owns and daily runs a major restaurant chain) and I do what I can…but the bottom line is that if we had been allowed to do as we pleased when we wanted to – I don?t know where we?d be today. I just don?t know. By the way, my friend?s father later became a Chief Justice on the Ohio Supreme Court.

    My experience on the matter.

  6. One of the points I loved most in this article, was the reiteration that there is a strong need to move past broken processes and ‘tried and true’ methodologies from the old models that barely worked then and don’t work now.

    Any approach that is unwilling to look at how things might be done differently, has a serious shelf life, and all the consequences that go with it. Cheers for tying up some great points to remind us that moving foward means being willing to get up from where we are sitting today.

    As for the Ivy league rant, I admit, I bristled at first at the ‘experience versus education’ bit. But then I could also remember being in that predictable catch 22 we all experience coming out of school. I was an Ivy-League grad some years ago with a flashy sheepskin and no job. And it took me nearly a year and half before I found a way to apply that schooling to a meaningful career for ME. Everywhere I went, I heard I had no experience. Once I started in the workforce, I heard the woes of co-workers, and friends who lamented that they couldn’t find a decent career track because they didn’t have a degree.

    I think that argument goes the way of the entire article. There’s no safe ‘stereotype’ for what makes a quality hire. That, in my opinion, is an idea with a shelf life that expired long ago.

  7. Oh, c’mon Wendell. Talk about spewing self serving gratifications to justify your own belief system.

    Telling people they live in ‘self imposed ignorance’ because they don’t require degrees is absurd.

    Gates and Dell’s companies use college grads because their HR departments created the policies there and enforce them. Do you think Gates and Dell have any input into any hires? The only exceptions are at the most senior level, and I seriously doubt they are looking at degrees when they are involved.

    One of my old clients, a High School grad, went on to become a highly recognized senior software engineer at Microsoft without a degree. He later got one, but the point is he didn’t have one and had no intention of getting one when they hired him as a software engineer.

    The most successful people I have ever met in any industry are the ones who have the most passion for their job. 99% are without a degree, or if they have one, it wasn’t related to anything they do now. Most started in the business at a low level job and worked their way up the ladder to where they are now.

    I have been hiring sales, engineering and management people since the 80s and have never seen anyone achieve success because of their degree. In fact for every successful person you show me with a degree, I’ll show you 10000 failures. A degree has nothing to do with performance, intelligence or success potential.

    I currently recruit for a Fortune 100 company who allows for non-degree experience to count against the degree requirement. Two to three of every five hires I make are to technical people without degrees. We base our hires on skill and experience and it comes as no surprise that these people always exceed the required expectations for the positions.

    Less than 25% of Americans can afford to go to college. I’m not criticizing Harvard or anyone with a degree, but to base your hiring decision on the paper rather than the person is discrimination in its ugliest form.

  8. Well, Mark…you found me out!

    Aside from my responding, ‘Ouch!’; which of my self-serving beliefs do you disagree with..

    1) On the average, 100 people with academic degrees will out-perform 100 people without them?

    2) On the average, 100 people who continue their education are often more effective than 100 people who don’t?

    3) It is just as discriminatory to base a hiring decision on solely unverifiable interview data as on a legitimate degree?

    4) Citing one-off exceptions is not a legitimate reason for ignoring a trend.

    No one (including me) advocates hiring criteria based solely on a degree, but when all else fails, I think a resonable man who was going to court would choose a lawyer with a diploma over one without.

    By the way…’Shooting the messenger’ and ignoring the message is unproductive.

  9. I’m amazed as to the many good (and I guess bad) points on both sides of this issue, and how many top executives don’t have degrees, or who got poor grades in college.

    I find fewer of my clients require a degree and none of these look at the school or the grades! And if someone only had a 3.0 average, but did it while working full time and raising a family, they deserve extra credit. But to simply flat out turn down stellar industry experience, prefering to hire those with a degree, even though that person may have partied all the way thru school, is, happily more of a rarity amonst my clients now, perhaps because I ask the question.

    Keep up the good fight, ladies & gentlemen.

  10. Okay ERE, I tried posting yesterday, but somehow it hasn?t appeared, so I will try again ?

    Mark, Loved your response.. it was on the nose?

    Dr. Wendell ? Please can you show the actual data for those statistics? This would be an interesting read for sure..

    As a recruiter and I know many of us who read the hundreds of resumes a day that this information doesn?t appear to be very accurate
    There are indeed a High Proportionate number of individuals ? extremely High number, who did not graduate College but had been extremely successful in life. It is actually of the Norm, not an exception. Individuals who bought and sold companies, worked their way up the business totem pole.. etc.

    You say 1 In 100 — really, so you are saying you don?t know individuals who are working at menial jobs and making low wages who have degrees and at the same time the Wealthiest Men of this world don?t have degrees?

    You claim 1 per 100 ? really? Where did those facts come from, especially considering that –

    FACT – 1 ONLY 24 Percent of Baby Boomers had a Bachelors education or higher.. Yes there are many more of those individuals who have Made something with their life.. but at the Same token there are even less who are making less than 45k a year.. and have not had the same ?out-performance? of which you speak..

    You often mention trends ? please sir, what trends.. if companies had hired only college educated individuals, dang that would have meant less than 24 percent of the population..

    Here are the actual Facts

    Less than 9th grade 3,310,668
    9th to 12th grade, no diploma 8,330,706
    High school graduate 22,574,815
    Some college, no degree 17,132,710
    Associates degree 6,443,130
    Graduate or professional degree 6,163,024
    Total 63,955,053

    Source: US Census Bureau Released: Feb. 1996

    Dr. Wendell I can produce an extremely long list of noted and successful individuals without a college degree that even surprised me.. In fact this list included some of the wealthiest and most noted and honorable men in history. Again, no, it is not an exception, go to fortune 500 and see the profiles of the Top 500 Wealthiest and the number of individuals w/o a degree was indeed amazing.. It definitely is not 1 in 100 ? considering there are over 100 in the top 100 alone.

    Thanks for allowing me the chance to post this.

  11. OK You can have the last word.

    Just one question. If I am not mistaken you were once enrolled in a psychology course. If you value college so little, then why bother?

  12. Never said I don’t value College Dr. Wendell. What I disagree with is to put a focus on a degree, and overlook experience. Please see my previous post on 5/24/2006 at 12:28 p.m. PT where I did state that I was not anti degree,,, guess I will restate ?Before I continue I would like to make Clear that I am not anti Formal Education, but as a Person whose job involves Employment I am dismayed to see Education Being used as a tool that could Have a Disparate Impact against Extremely Qualified but Not formally educated Individuals.?

    A wonderful PHD by the name of Eugene Garfield, Ph.D also shares my views.. great article http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/essays/v2p238y1974-76.pdf

    You asked a question ?It is just as discriminatory to base a hiring decision on solely unverifiable interview data as on a legitimate degree?? — I personally find that question to be an interesting way to pull away from the context of what is being said here..
    It is discriminatory to base any hiring decision on any Sole factor without looking at the full experience, and skills that the candidates have to offer.
    .
    Dr. Wendell, this isn?t about being right, it is about treating our employees, our candidates, Right. About doing right by the companies we work for.

    Investing time, looking over qualified candidates for positions because they lack a degree tends to be somewhat illogical. companies who may turn down a person who has proven successes, just because they don?t have a sheepskin, well they are setting themselves up for failure and disaster. Not to mention the potential for lawsuits.

    Recently I saw a rather large company requiring a degree for a Secretary.. Wow, a bachelors for a secretary. Wonder how long that individual will stay, what their turnover will be like.. and why in goodness sake would a secretary need a bachelors degree for. Extreme, yes, but they don?t think so.

    What about companies who require a degree for their recruiters.. Hmm.. so are we saying that there are not very successful recruiters who have been billing millions of dollars without a degree..

    For a company to require a degree for positions, especially in an industry that normally does not require one, my question is Why? and wow, if any diverse, protected class, successful candidate crosses your door and you don?t consider their application ? they have grounds to have an audit started by the EEOC..

    Why take that risk? Is it really necessary to have that degree? Why? What proof do you have that the piece of paper is going to allow that person to do a better job..

    I end with One of the Supreme Court?s earliest interpretations of Title VII: ?History is filled with examples of men and women who rendered highly effective performance without the conventional badges of accomplishment in terms of certificates, diplomas, or degrees. Diplomas and tests are useful servants, but Congress has mandated the commonsense proposition that they are not to become masters of reality??

  13. What a wonderful topic to explore. Hopefully the substantive message is one that provokes quite a bit of thought.

    I have read several books that purport to list all of the attributes of the most successful men and women. I am sure you have to and if the answers were easy the authors would probably not sell as many books.

    What combination of skill, talent, attitude, ability and experience make someone successful? If you know the answer hurry and write the definitive book (smile)!

    As I read the article and the postings I formed several questions that might shed some light on the issue for me anyway if there are answers.

    Is a degree just a piece of paper or what does it represent?

    Is the sole measure of success in recruiting billing?

    If an industry does not normally require a degree does that mean the requirement of one would not improve the profession?

    I won’t attempt to answer any of these questions as I would truly be interested in ideas from others.

  14. Beverly,
    Sorry for coming in again, but I loved your questions.. They were thought provoking.

    What combination of skill, talent, attitude, ability and experience make someone successful? If you know the answer hurry and write the definitive book (smile)!
    Is there any one particular? Depending on Job Requirements, company needs, the structure of the company, their company policies and the

    Is a degree just a piece of paper or what does it represent?
    I don?t think a degree is only a piece of paper, especially in the first 10+ years for many industries, but there is only so much information a degree can bring to the table.. There are things I learned in School and College that are refuted today. Especially if one considers Science, engineering, the law or even Human Resources.

    A degree also does show (especially for the inexperienced, and the new entry into the business world) commitment and stamina to complete something, But, if someone has showed that same stick-to-it attitude, determination through experience, solid job history and hands on training, should that person not be entitled to have similar respect. Have they not also obtained their dues but maybe the long road more traveled?

    Is the sole measure of success in recruiting billing? No

    If an industry does not normally require a degree does that mean the requirement of one would not improve the profession?
    Hmm, that is a really good one. I think Education in any industry is a Must.. but is a degree necessary? Can one not gain the education without the Badge of Bachelors or Masters?
    There are a few Professions that mandate a degree ? and even then there are still bad doctors, PHD?s, lawyers. There are doctors who obtained that degree 20 years previously and have rarely opened a book since. That can be scary don?t you think?

    Yes, I do agree a degree has some importance, especially in the beginning of a career but I find it difficult to understand the significance of degree later in life. Especially when people change; Life changes how people think, react or deal with things. Who we were 20 years ago whilst in school is not who we are today.. so to judge someone on previous accomplishments rather than to look at What they have Been Presently doing, well that seems so erroneous, don?t you think?

  15. Beverly,

    I would like to add my thoughts to the ongoing discussion.

    Is a degree just a piece of paper or what does it represent?

    I agree with Karen but would like to add more. Degree/education is very important because it forms the basis of our depth of knowledge(in the beginning years), the way we handle situations(through out life), our view to scientific, structured approach(through out life) and more. What degree imparts us directly, can help us in our jobs is important and changes with times. But even importantly degree gives us the brain power to think beyond what we learn in school. Having said the above it does not mean that degreed folks know it all and undegreed do not. It simply makes ground for easy comparisons. I have encountered so many individuals in my personal and professional life who for lack of good education (hence degrees) were not simply logical, scientific in their decision making and also a lot of degreed people who had no clue to what they were doing. For clients if decision had to be made going the degreed way would be easier. A lot of non degreed people could be the best out there but how to weed out the rest would become a big issue.

    In HR I feel we can definetely think more logically when our brain is stimulated through thought provoking ideas that usually come thorough higher education and good interactions in similarly qualified people.

    Is the sole measure of success in recruiting billing?

    Defineltely not. Getting a good name from clients/Candidates for doing a good, ethical work is very high priority. Also having enough work (with hopes of reward) to do is another measure of success.

    If an industry does not normally require a degree does that mean the requirement of one would not improve the profession?

    Not necessarily. Depends on the profession. In fact a degree imposition might make getting new qualified people SERIOUS in their jobs a hinderance. eg – We deal with computer operators for data centers and if by any chance we come across degreed guys we usually end up in problems because these guys are not happy to be operators, they want to do more but they have been working as operators for ever. Dissatisfaction becomes a big issue.

    Forceful requirement of degree would create difficulties for professions where degree does not bring in any direct impact onto the job responsibilities.

  16. Thank you for referring to my previous article and continuing with this discussion throughout your article.

    I found that those individuals who were the most critical to my statements within my article were those folks who are defensive because they lack an education. Instead,they hold onto their mensa membership or apparent high IQ (as if that means anything with the research that has been done on IQ tests)–this is not unusual and I am quite accustomed to it. For those who were supportive, they clearly paid their dues.

    Then there were those who thought they were being clever with their various quotes. I have worked at employers who don’t care about persistence, imagination, potential, or educated Derelicts (extracted from the myriad of quotes). They just want those individuals to have the darn degree in order to be taken seriously. Of course, some of these employers are particular about where you attend school (I was even asked about my SAT scores despite being out of school for over a decade)–that’s another argument in itself.

    I find it to be a glaring contradiction for those who said that they want their lawyers and doctors to have the educational backgrounds that they do (and are required), but they don’t think that an education requirement should be imposed upon the recruiting profession. Every professional career should require a foundation because it requires a level of commitment and analytical thinking that only an educational experience can provide. Otherwise, we should just be picking up garbage for a living.

  17. Melinda,
    It may be interesting to note that in some states an Education is NOT required to be an attorney. Neither is one required to be a Professional Engineer.

    Okay, I give, you have convinced me.. As of today, I will make sure that my clients Only hire an individual who has a 3.40 average and above, definitely graduated from an Elitist School.

    We will spend that much longer looking for that perfect sales candidate with these credentials, and for goodness sakes if we can’t find one with experience we definitely will make sure that they have at least the education and forget about the individual who have the proven expert experience.. gee, they just don?t cut the mustard anymore

    Seriously If companies, banks, financial institutions, thought like that then a grand majority of the Baby Boomers – more than 80 Percent of the population would not have had an opportunity to be who they are today.

    Some companies would not be in existence if they were unable to get the loans because the financial officer would not have believed they were capable to make the grade because they didn’t make the grade.. Pun intended ? Think about it, Dell, Microsoft, Oracle, Gateway Yes even Google ? would these individuals have been able to gain the financial backing they needed, if everyone thought Hey you are just a dropout, ?loser? (lack of better word), why should we give you our money.

    By the way, many of the people who protest about this matter do have degrees.. Including the Supreme Court? Several on this board also have degrees. One of the most interesting people I know on ERE has a PHD from one of those Elitist Schools, many are not even aware of this ? His name and business is highly recognizable, and regarded with high respect. The business he has with his partner is Highly successful. I found out only this year in a personal conversation that he held a doctorate. I have known him for some time.

    I asked him why he never put this info on his profile or their webpage. He said and I loosely translate- that his business is founded by their personalities, the people they are, and the information they have gained in the process. He said that he didn?t want people to be swayed by the piece of paper. He wanted people to come to use their service because of their Product, because of them, who they are and what they bring to the table not because of a piece of paper!

    Now there is a person I respect!

    There are Just as many individuals who can be considered drop-outs even though they hold a degree ? I have seen many a professional degreed individual who were complete drop out and ?losers? in my books even though they held that piece of paper ? Enron Comes to mind.. I also know some great winners who dropped out of High school as well and made something of their lives ? Present Prime Minister of England comes to mind..

  18. Melinda,

    I’m jumping into the middle of something, because I haven’t read the previous discussion, but I have to say that you sound as defensive as the people you’re commenting upon. It sounds as if one or more of them hit a nerve.

    Personally, while I graduated with departmental honors from college and also have an unrelated master’s degree, I don’t think that prepared me in any way to be a good recruiter. In fact, most of the best recruiters that I know were far from academic stars.

    My personal belief is that if you have good communication skills, good basic math skills, above average intelligence, and integrity, then you have the makings of an excellent recruiter.

    Sorry to jump in on the middle of a discussion, but your characterization of those who disagreed with you was so harsh I felt compelled to throw in my two cents worth. As a technical recruiter, I would add that while a solid formal education can be very helpful in advancing one’s technical career, it’s by no means a requirement either. Some of the best software developers I know, as well as many well known leaders in technology either have no college training, or dropped out of college prior to graduating in order to enter the workforce.

    The key, I think, is to consider each individual’s strengths whether they have a degree or not, rather than prejudging them based on whether they have earned a diploma.

    Regards,

    Tim Heard

  19. Melinda,

    To say that its only the non degreed folks on ERE that are in disagreance with you is somewhat bewildering. To say that they lack an education because they have no 4 year degree is even more bewildering.

    A University degree (which is much less common in Europe as opposed to the USA) is almost treated like a high school diploma here. If you dont have one you are seen as second class citizen, but to become a more senior levelled exec in a corp world you need an advanced degree or even a PHD.

    In Europe a degree is usualy required to work in a field relative to which the degree was earned. (Although that may have changed somewhat now).

    It makes me chuckle also that we (recruiters) continuously compare ourselves to doctors, lawyers and dentists… If this is the case I’d be interested in where you earned your degree in recruiting? When you passed your state and federal recruiting exam for a licence and how often you have to renew it?

    Commitment and analytical thinking? Have you actualy interviewed any recent college grads? While many are certainly dedicted, intelligent and commited, there are an equal number that are not any of those and would likely have pulled out of school had someone not made them stay there and paid their way.

    While I did support myself through school there are many who did not.I personaly have as much respect for someone who made their way in the world succesfully without a formal education (as did my father), as those who do. There are winners and losers and the the deciding factor should not be a diploma that states ‘is hereby conferred upon the degree’

    Its time to take off the blinkers, if you widen your view a little you may find you have missed out on some great folks who ‘hold onto their mensa membership’.

    And yes I do hold a Bsc., but its not in recruiting either.

  20. I think we are all looking for the holy grail of recruiting the from the perfect interview question, degree, test, or in this case academic brand. Intelligence and talent is contextual. I wouldn?t want Einstein to perform heart surgery and Michael Jordan didn?t make the cut as a pro baseball player. Actuaries don?t do better at the track betting, as would a professional gambler make a better Actuary. At the end of the day, a good decision is one that is agreed on by the majority of others affected by the decision as being a good decision. This of course is subject to change as the data changes. Recruiting follows those principles, which means if a academic brand, grade point, or anything else that signals greatness to group and the candidate possesses that, then they will be a good candidate… so be it. As long as the context of the ?ultimate device? aligns, you?ll be okay until the data changes.

  21. I agree with Alan. Global norms are non-informational. We’ve been using axiometric assessment to delineate high performers from low performers and find the differences are organization specific. (Axiometric assessment measures a person’s capabilities in process, not by after-the-fact-self-report as most assessments do, so it will be more precise. It also reduces bias effects and the effects of low self-knowledge.) We’ve concluded that certain organizations can manage certain talent variables better than other organizations. What the objective data shows is that what signals failure in one organization can signal success in another–for the same position.)

  22. The difference between candidates is the strengths they have for a particular position. Strengths is defined as the combination of skills, knowledge, and talent performed with passion and repeated successfully over time (a la Marcus Buckingham).

    Where one went to school would fall under knowledge and yes, it does provide us with some information of the candidate. But whether a candidate has identified his/her talents, honed them with knowledge and augmented them with skills, and further, whether the strengths are applicable for a particular position are a whole seperate assessment independent of what school s/he graduated from.

    Additionally, it has been my experience to assess the level of motivation and passion for candidates graduating from elite universities as they may have either a sense of entitlement and/or been beneficiaries due to one connection or another to attend an elite institution.

  23. Eamonn,

    I think you mean ‘blinders’ not ‘blinkers,’ but I really shouldn’t nitpick. I understand entirely the argument for the self made person who may not have had the opportunity to get a college education, but I wouldn’t agree that this is a competitive position to find oneself in 21st century corporate life.

    Not only does a formal education help build a bridge into a career early on, it also informs and shapes a person’s life as they move through the corporate ranks — or decide not to move through them. In my opinion, a liberal arts education not directed at any specific trade can be surprisingly valuable. How many lawyers run pet stores? It happens.

    Research skills, writing skills, strategy, deduction, comparison — each of these are refined as you complete a formal education. You’re going to have a tough time arguing these away as foundations for success in just about anything you might choose to do, including being a recruiter.

  24. Hi All,

    Thank you for providing all of your points of view, but I think that there are vast assumptions being made about my opinions and perspectives. As Dr. Williams stated, a number of people weighed in to trash my article and ‘I hope the majority of people do not take these comments too seriously. These arguments may sound attractive, but are all seriously wrong-headed ? and some are even dangerous.’ It seems that the comments made are overlooking the fundamental points that myself and Dr. Williams are making. Read them again. Understand them.

    As far Eamonn’s points about a European education, the reason why a high school education is highly valued is because it is a much more rigorous curriculum than it is in the U.S. I spent a year studying in France and spent 7 years attending an international school in S.F. You are preaching to the choir, but thank you for enlightening others as to the difference between the U.S. and Europe regarding education. A graduate degree from a U.S. institution is considered to be very valuable in Europe. Moreover, in Europe, everyone has a shot at a college education because the application process is not based on economics or legacies, but merit.

    I would just like to see those who have paid their dues be rewarded. I have not seen enough of this in the recruiting profession. I do respect self-made individuals, and I know a lot of educated self-made individuals who wish others would earn an education themselves because they believe that an education is a foundation. I also know a lot of recruiters who have seen their lack of education hurt them from getting hired and getting ahead, despite their years of experience, imagination, and persistence. In my experience, the uneducated feel entitled to the same paths as the educated, yet they don’t want to pay the same dues. I am not saying, Karen, that you have to have a certain GPA from a certain school (you do know why I left a previous company for exactly that myopic practice–even though I don’t agree with that company, it works for them!). I am simply saying that we need a foundation if you are expected, as recruiters, to be in a profession where you are interacting with high caliber individuals and are expected to have a strong level of communication, analytical, and execution skills. These skills may not come from an engineering major, but it will come from the humanities classes that are generally required. I’m not talking about a certificate or an online education from a for-profit school. A Cal State, an Ivy League, and everything in between can provide the tools to be successful faster, but of course there is no guarantee since we have to consider market conditions and other factors.

    Otherwise, why go to college? Don’t we go to help us be professionally successful, not just for personal fulfillment or to learn a trade? Motivation and persistence are separate issues–when a company looks at a resume, they can’t always measure your motivation and imagination because those are subjective issues, but they can judge you based on what you have accomplished both educationally and professionally–the latter will get you through the door, and the subjective issues may or may not keep you in the room. Shouldn’t we know this as staffing professionals? I still believe that we need a bar in recruiting, just like there are bars in many other professions.

  25. you say ‘… In my experience, the uneducated feel entitled to the same paths as the educated, yet they don’t want to pay the same dues….’

    One of the founding premises of the United States is that people should be able to excel based on their desire and work ethic, not their background or social standing.

    Here you claim the uneducated feel ‘entitled’ to the same job respect as those with a degree.

    Besides the fact that this is one of the most arrogant statements I have every heard in my life, it is also one of the biggest lies.

    In my 25+ years experience as an executive in the computer industry and as a recruiter, I have NEVER met a self made man or woman that had any feelings of entitlement about anything.

    On the other hand, I meet college grads every day that somehow feel that having a degree grants them a magic pass to a title, benefits and and big salary without ever having put forth any effort. There’s an old joke in recruiting that goes like this:

    At the end of a job interview, the recruiter asked the colleg grad what kind of salary he was looking for. ‘In the neighborhood of $140,000 a year, depending on the benefits package,’ he said.

    ‘Well, what would you say to a package of 5-weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car…say, a red Corvette?’

    ‘Wow! Are you kidding?’ responded the grad.

    ‘Yeah, but you started it.’

    By achieving a degree, you haven’t earned anything in the eyes of the business world. What the degree tells us is that you have potential and some rudimentary skills, but we all have made college hires that interviewed well, passed every prescreening evaluation with flying colors, then performed miserably at the job.

    The person without the degree has already proved his worth, with a documented track record of performance. To disqualify a non-degreed person from a position in favor of someone with less experience because they have a degree is discrimination and prejudice in its worst form.

    Probably the only good thing to come out of the new OFCCP regulations is that employers must now break down job descriptions by minimum skill requirements. A degree can no longer be a determining factor in whether or not someone is qualified for a job unless that employer can PROVE that a degree has a specific bearing on ones ability to do the work.

    The next 10 years will prove difficult enough to find enough quality people to fill our jobs without adding another layer of discrimination as a means of segregating out qualified candidates.

    It is about time we started treating people with respect based on who they are and what they can do, not based on their pedigree.

  26. Well Said Mark

    yes indeed well said… Kimberly – you mentioned one should earn one’s stripes — what do you think Years of experience is? Isn’t that earning it the road More Travelled, versus the world Less — Less considering that Less people have degrees versus More…. EVEN in today’s 21 Society

    Mark Re your comments –
    Probably the only good thing to come out of the new OFCCP regulations is that employers must now break down job descriptions by minimum skill requirements. A degree can no longer be a determining factor in whether or not someone is qualified for a job unless that employer can PROVE that a degree has a specific bearing on ones ability to do the work.

    Well the EEOC HAS indeed done that – yes it does trickle over to the OFCCP – Please see my previous posts – in fact here is the info from the Manual itself
    http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/race-color.html
    SECTION 15: RACE & COLOR DISCRIMINATION – VI, Chapter B, Hiring and Promotion – Education Requirements –

    Educational requirements obviously may be important for certain jobs. For example, graduation from medical school is required to practice medicine. However, employers often impose educational requirements out of their own sense of desirable qualifications. Such requirements may run afoul of Title VII if they have a disparate impact and exceed what is needed to perform the job. As the Supreme Court stated in one of its earliest interpretations of Title VII: ?History is filled with examples of men and women who rendered highly effective performance without the conventional badges of accomplishment in terms of certificates, diplomas, or degrees. Diplomas and tests are useful servants, but Congress has mandated the commonsense proposition that they are not to become masters of reality.?(89)

  27. Thanks Mark…..you really hit the nail on the head. I wonder, (as I sit and review the stacks of horrific resumes from degreed people) How is it that (what with all the ooohs and ahhhs of proper schooling and higher education that’s being touted here) these clearly ‘superior’ people cannot string two sentences together or understand simple concepts such as ‘Business Attire for the Interview’ (yes, I had a degreed engineer go in shorts and flip flops after he was told what to wear…didn’t get the job, go figure). I’m sorry, but I have plenty of friends and acquaintances that skated through college with one hand on a liquor bottle and the other on a cheat sheet, and while they did get a degree, what they did not get was an education! So, should I (someone that got my GED and then served my time the Navy) feel dirty, undeserving, stupid and less of a person for this??? Maybe so….maybe all my long time clients are wrong and I’m really not good enough to be in charge here……I think I’ll just fire myself and get a ‘proper’ job at McDonalds that is more befitting of my educational status. Unless they require a degree, of course.

  28. Eamonn, I think you mean ‘blinders’ not ‘blinkers,’ and both you and Karen should consider proofreading or spell-checking your comments. But what do I know? I am college educated. Incidentally, I paid for both my undergrad and graduate school education.

    I understand entirely the argument for the self made person who may not have had the opportunity to get a college education, but I wouldn’t agree that this is the most competitive position from which to launch a career in 21st century corporate life.

    Not only does a formal education help build a bridge into a career early on, it also informs and shapes a person’s life as he or she moves through the ever-changing corporate ranks — or decides not to move through them. In my opinion, a liberal arts education not directed at any specific trade can be surprisingly valuable. How many lawyers run pet stores? It happens.

    Research skills, writing skills, strategy, deduction, comparison — each of these are refined as you complete a formal education. You’re going to have a tough time arguing these away as foundations for success in just about anything you might choose to do, including being the best recruiter that you can.

  29. I agree with Wade and would like to share the following:
    Recently, an organization (I know) had to hire a new C level leader and the applications they received were eye opening, while the canidates in person were stranger still.

    A question, you advertise for a job and an expatriate applies for it. He / She may be Great, but how do you find out about his/her suitability. A lot of times, on paper someone might not look good, but reality would be different. I might be missing the next Jack Welch and I dont want to do that.
    I would like a low cost (money, time etc) way to identify the stars. Any thoughts?

  30. Hi Kamaran:

    Many years receiving and assessing expatriates applications have indicated me that there is no way that anyone could be 100% sure about the ‘suitability’ of anyone to any job. This comment is also valid for any resume, whether it comes from an expatriate or not.

    The best answer to this will always be a personal interview, where your recruiting skills will be challenged.

    However, I understand that to invite an expatriate to come to an interview from overseas, is an expensive proposition. I would recommend to conduct a phone interview first.

    I am a fan of Emotional Intelligence. You could ask the candidate(s) to respond to a very simple EI survey on line. It doesn’t cost too much and it is an excellent indicator of potential suitability.You can enter http://www.talentsmart.com for more information about this.

    Other alterntive is to conduct an online Job-Fit and Candidate-Fit survey. You can enter http://www.swtinstitute.com for more information about Job-Fit. I think that each report costs $ 35.

    These online surveys cannot serve as absolute predictors of suitability, but indeed will well complement any other judgement that you, as a good recruiter, will gather during the interview process, wheter is conducted by phone or personally.

    In the end… you will only know the suitability of any candidate between 3 to 6 months of hiring.

    But your recruiting success record will improve if you consider Emotional Intelligence approach when evaluating candidates.

    Hope this helps.

  31. Where do people get the time to engage in class warfare? It would seem to me that your time might be more usefully spent actually doing your jobs than fighting over whose background makes a better recruiter. This sort of discussion is not assisting me in my efforts to improve my performance. ERE is a great idea and could be a useful tool, but only if the members exert some discipline. It is only too easy in a virtual office to lead a virtual life that is far less courteous than an in person life. It is past time to close this discussion and get back to recruiting as a subject matter.
    I try to devote a small portion of my morning to continuous training as a motivational tool and to learn something new every day. This board should be a good tool for all of us who practice this or a similar discipline.

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