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Should Degrees Be Required?

October 12th, 2012

Sixty years ago, a standard four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited university was a common, but nowhere near universal, credential for an entry level job in the nascent information economy. At that point, offices were beginning to replace farms and factories as gateways to a middle class lifestyle, and for most upwardly mobile office work, a college degree was coveted by employers. A degree suggested that a candidate had the tenacity and intellectual rigor to spend four years engaged in study, skill acquisition, and broad cultural immersion in the humanistic concepts that shape Western thought.

Candidates with a degree were considered intelligent and determined, and they were assumed to possess functional competence in their specific area of study. A degree also suggested a middle class background, since college was typically impractical or out of reach to those who had grown up in poverty.

Sixty years later, bachelor’s degrees have become such a universal symbol of readiness for information-based positions that their value is now being called in question. When you screen a candidate for an entry level office position, should a missing degree be a deal breaker? Or should you look beyond this credential for other qualities that provide more accurate predictors of success? Take these considerations into account.

You Make the Call

If you have sole or final responsibility for the consequences of this hiring decision, it might be a good idea to look beyond rigid and overly generic standards. Take control of the process and do what’s right for your business, your goals, your office culture, and yourself.

Take Technical and Clinical Knowledge into Account

A degree sometimes suggests immersion in broad ideas and intellectual rigor, which can also be judged by alternative methods. But without a degree, technical knowledge can be very hard to certify and prove. Make sure you’re not taking on a candidate who’s starting from absolute zero and will need to develop volumes of skill and information at your expense. Technical skills like drawing, writing, design, software development, and engineering take time and money to master. Calculate the cost of this training versus the salary premiums commanded by degree-holding candidates.

Get What You Pay For

If you do decide to fork over a salary premium for a candidate with a degree, make sure you get the value you expect for your money. Ask thoughtful questions during the interview that can give you real insight into the candidate’s overall knowledge base. And even though it may seem like a superfluous or overly cautious step, it’s never a bad idea to make a call and confirm a candidate’s educational credentials.

For more information on screening candidates for entry level positions, arrange a consultation with the Connecticut staffing and employment experts at Merritt Staffing Services.

Five Jobs We’d Love to Eavesdrop On!

February 24th, 2012

Once I sat in a quiet subway car with two friends, both orthopedic surgeons, who had just come away from a strange case, a patient who had sustained several fractures after falling from a five story building. My friends didn’t share the patient’s name of course, so I felt free to eavesdrop, and this conversation taught me more about the realities of surgery than all the hospital themed TV shows I had ever watched. I wondered if my job would ever sound that interesting to anyone.

Would anybody ever invite me to speak on Career Day after overhearing my conversations with my colleagues?  I raised the subject at my office, and everyone chimed in with a list of workplaces they’ve always wanted to spy on. Here are some of the most intriguing jobs we came up with:


What do conversations sound like on an international space station? After a long day, do astronauts talk about TV shows and sporting events while they float in zero gravity eating rehydrated ice cream? And during the busiest moments of the nine to five grind (what do those hours look like in space?) what kind of collegial chatter goes on up there?

Movie Director

If you’re a movie director, today you may need to blow up a building, and tomorrow you’ll need to bring a tyrannosaurus to life, pamper an unhappy star, or create the most subtle and complex feelings in your audience using a magical combination of lighting, acting cues, and effects. Movie directors talk shop just like the rest of us, but what does it sound like when they do? We would love to find out.

Bartender or Hairstylist

Bartenders and hairstylists have access to the most privileged information you’ll find anywhere. Some of us share tidbits with these two that we wouldn’t even discuss with a therapist or spouse. We’d like to drop in on that gossip and glean some insights into the complexities of human nature.

CIA Operative

Is the life of a CIA agent anything like it is in the movies? Anything at all? If we can’t eavesdrop on their conversations, how will we ever know if all those action sequences and high stakes capers are realistic?

Your Job

What about your job? What goes on in behind-the-scenes conversations between you and your colleagues? Here at Merritt Staffing in CT, we love everything about the world of work. We love thinking about work, talking about jobs, studying employment statistics, and finding out what people do all day.  And we want to hear from you. Leave a comment below. And if you could use some employment-related advice, contact our office and find out how we can make your work life more fulfilling, fascinating and productive.

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