09 Apr Write this on your job advertisement and I will never click your links again
Let me start with a disclaimer. If you’re about to hire a specialist instead of a generalist, this article isn’t for you. Specialists are hired to keep up the old (as long as it lasts), whereas generalists are hired to create new. I only have passion for the latter.
To be ruthlessly honest with you: I’m formally unqualified for everything I do for a living. Yet I have never had a job that I have applied for. Instead I’ve always just bumped into a customer or an employer, and then to another. That said I claim to know, what those in demand are after.
Requiring a degree is harmful, but only for the recruiting part.
We millennials are a bit self-important. When we see a job advertisement that excludes us from the scope, we don’t see it as a missed opportunity for ourselves. We consider the recruiting company to have missed an opportunity: us.
Every time I read an interesting job opening and find out that a degree is required, an emotional bond is created. “Oh, here’s a company that lives on another century than I do. Well, there’s no need to follow their doings in the future.”
What does having a “M.Sc. / B.Sc. in relevant area” prove?
Those who support using a degree as a relevant selection criterion tend to rely on two arguments: job applicants with a degree have shown that they can be systematic (have completed at least one project in their life) and are specialists among at least one subject (defined by their school’s study plan).
Arguably you can prove you have been systematic in your life by other means too, such as having run your own company or having successfully worked with projects in the past. There’s no need to go more in-depth with this one.
The more controversial topic is whether being educated is better than being skilled.
There is a huge mismatch on the labor market. In 2015 there were over 40 million unemployed people in the OECD area alone. Out of those with a job, 28% are mismatched.
Overskilled and overeducated are two different things. Nevertheless, of these two undesirable characteristics being overskilled is far less harmful than being overeducated. Compared to their well-matched peers, overskilled get paid 4 % less, whereas both overskilled and overeducated get 11 % less. Those who are only overeducated earn 12 % less than the well-matched comparison group.
Mismatch, of course, is always task-related. But simply just being a specialist doesn’t give you any advantage. As described above, it can be a burden. It becomes even a bigger burden when you are a specialist in something that can be defined chapter and verse.
A specialist will always have a cheaper and more efficient competitor.
If we take a look at the hardest jobs to fill, we see that the most in-demand jobs are for specialists. The other thing they have in common is that they require skills that can be either mostly automatized or fully given to Artificial Intelligence in the near future.
AI is already a better doctor, lawyer or finance analyst than a human. The easier a specialist job is to define, the easier it is to be given to AI. This means that the more narrow and in-depth your know-how as a specialist is, the faster it will be replaced.
On the other hand, there is no such thing as a formal degree for interdisciplinary generalism. What AI won’t be able to do in the near future is being creative, transparent or having a moral. This is because these abstract and humane attributes are difficult to define.
AI is good at being a specialist and bad at being a generalist.
Everything is changing faster than ever. Our customers, markets and habits change, which leads to a need for fast reaction. This means being able to change and to create new – something you don’t learn in schools. What has not been done before–things that don’t exist yet–can simply not be taught by means of empiric education.
That is the reason we need generalists. Recruitment shouldn’t be based on just keeping up with the existing but also on creating new. The kind of new that is needed should be found in the company strategy and applied in the talent management. That being said I claim the problem to be that most recruiters are specialists. And it is hard to keep an open mind on generalists in the world of specialists.
(This is also why recruiting a specialist will be highly automated in the future.)
Yes, the recruitment criteria should be concrete and measurable. But only a lazy and incompetent recruiter mistakes this with requiring a degree.