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Should we disregard educational qualifications in the recruitment process?

Steve Bridger

| 8498 Posts

Community Manager

21 Aug, 2018 11:18

Admittedly a provocative title... but yesterday I read Neil Morrison's blog post - Qualifying success - in which he writes:

I’m currently in-between receiving A-level results and GCSEs for my two kids. Having been through the exam period with them and now awaiting results, I’m reminded how frankly barbaric this process is. As a means of assessing potential and capability, it ranks up there with Russian roulette.

Neil is a CIPD board member and I have always enjoyed reading his views. This one hits home as I also have a daughter who will receive her GCSE results on Thursday morning. It has been a stressful 12 months... but how much should it matter?

Neil again...

As a long standing champion of disregarding educational qualifications in the recruitment process, I believe business has a big role to play in changing this dialogue. Our job is to identify potential, to seek out talent and to build capability – yet we know that there is no direct correlation between this an academic results or educational establishment. This is why not only should we fundamentally limit the use of academic qualifications in assessment, but we should be open and clear that we do.

Do you agree?

How much weight do you currently give to academic qualifications?

Has your view changed over time?

1874 views
  • Keith

    | 11414 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    21 Aug, 2018 12:38

    I do not think there is any ground swell of opinion in business to disregard educational qualifications and I would not hold my breath waiting for one .

    Whilst undoubtedly there is a huge amount of pressure placed on candidates especially at 16 and 18 I am not sure there is any real correlation between this pressure and the wishes or desires of business. Most of it now seems to come from (and I am not having a go here) those in education desperate to improve the rating of their establishment and their own personal success.

    Clearly the relevance and use place by business on educational qualifications will vary over time. For entry level roles they "can" be a useful tool to establish some basic points about the candidate and their approach and aptitude for learning. (Accepting of course that there are some who are late developers and some who don't thrive in our current education system). But if basic English and maths skills are important would the alternative be every employer establishing their own basic competency tests - and how efficient would that be? Particularly for SMEs etc?

    Clearly there is a wider debate about degrees (and their relative rigour and purpose) but again given that an organisation has decided that it wants to invest in a group of people for its future supervisors and managers then having as a gateway a degree "may" be a sensible way of targeting the "Right" candidates from a far wider pool.

    And as a Board member of the CIPD are we to expect that academic qualifications will be soon removed from our offering :-) I somehow think not? Or is this argument only relevant to 16-18 years olds and somehow in latter life they start to have purpose?

    The problem I have with these short snappy articles is that its easy to throw up a proposition that seems attractive (you see it on LinkedIn all the time) but its only superficially attractive designed to attract attention.

    So educational qualifications are not (and never should have been) the only thing an employer looks at , but for me thats a fairly long way away from saying we ought to disregard them and the effort, hard work and energy that candidates have taken to obtain them.
  • Annabel

    | 444 Posts

    Chartered Member

    21 Aug, 2018 13:15

    In reply to Keith:

    CIPD remove qualifications?! I imagine it's at this very moment trying to engineer a level 2 or 4 or 6 so people can go through more hoops :-)
  • Robey

    | 1863 Posts

    Chartered Member

    21 Aug, 2018 14:43

    I had a job application the other day for an administrative role from an applicant with two GCSEs: one in Sports and one in Art.

    I feel justified in concluding that he was probably not suited to a role involving mathematics, attention to detail and extensive data entry on those grounds alone (although, it has to be said, I didn't - I read over the rest of his CV before reaching that conclusion).

    "Our job is to identify potential, to seek out talent and to build capability"

    Yes, but one of the ways that we identify potential is to look at past performance. If someone fails to achieve good grades at GCSE that shouldn't condemn them to a lifetime of minimum wage employment, but by the same measure it also shouldn't open a doorway to prime job opportunities better saved for those whose potential is more evident.

    We build capability not by becoming tied up in specific individuals but by looking at a workforce as a whole. And yes, of course, a good workforce development plan will acknowledge the field marshal's baton in every soldier's backpack, but it will still expect them to do the mud-slogging to earn it.
  • Ray Naylor

    | 3043 Posts

    Chartered Member

    21 Aug, 2018 15:25

    As always it's a question of context and "what for?".

    At one extreme I would prefer my doctor/dentist/architect to have undertaken a course of study leading to an academic qualification permitting them to practice their professions. As one step down I would probably recruit quite a few R&D people with a PhD in an area of applied research that is appropriate to the job I want them to undertake. Although not necessary on an academic level I would also expect a head of R&D to have gone through a similar route - but more because of getting credibility with his team of dreamers... his real job is probably no longer based on technical expertise and is more about managing resources.

    At the other end of the spectrum qualifications only have a real value for me in the early years of someone's career (see Robey's post), and the degree they obtained 20 years ago in social anthropology will be irrelevant to their profession of office manager.

    For day to day jobs the skills and experience acquired after 5-6 years will almost always be more important than the qualifications - the exceptions being for regulated professions.

    More interesting these days are the certifications of operational and professional competences that many bodies are now promoting - I've just finished a 45 minute oral with a person who wanted a professional competence certification in the highly specialist are of senior executive remuneration (in a French context). The oral followed 2 days of group training and case work, then a 4 hour examination aimed at checking whether the person could demonstrate they could successfully apply the technical knowledge in an operation context...

    In conclusion - "horses for courses"
  • In reply to Annabel:

    There was a Level 4 which I previously completed, but is no longer recognised under the current CIPD qualification levels ;-)
  • Annabel

    | 444 Posts

    Chartered Member

    21 Aug, 2018 15:48

    In reply to Ray Naylor:

    I would agree with the perspective of time in many cases. I would hate to think anyone cared what my Maths GCSE result was now (and indeed if a recruiter was that pedantic I'd probably think twice), and I do smile when I still get CVs that proudly tell me what someone got in their "O levels" in 1979 :-)
  • David Perry

    | 5356 Posts

    Chartered Member

    21 Aug, 2018 20:17

    In reply to Robey:

    Oh dear oh me! Robey. "Our job is to identify potential". And you go on to say you did this by deciding that someone with two GCSEs in Sport & Art. Isn't that putting 2+2= 5?.

    By your's (and in fairness many others too), you wouldn't have given me the job either. I left school with no qualifications in much and certainly not maths. Yet I gained a distinction in Statistics whilst doing my DPM and my very 1st role in HR was to work out the entire staffing costs of around 500 staff using a spread sheet. The next year the challenge was to work out a training strategy, present it to the CE0 and then became responsible for the £100,000 training budget. I did it not because I like maths. Its boring. But I did it because I liked the challenge.

    40 years ago I worked with disadvantaged young adults. (Y.T.S scheme) Almost none of them had qualifications worth writing about, many hated school and consequently authority.

    Some of them I still see around town. Some have senior jobs in large organisations such as utilities management, several are self employed, run businesses etc., and at least one is a middle ranking army officer.

    The lack of qualifications is no measurement of a persons ability, aptitude, or capability.

    (sorry for the lecture - you just pressed the wrong button Robey ;-)
  • Hi Steve,

    20 years ago GCSE’s were for the many, A-levels for the few, and degrees even fewer. Now unfortunately due to the degrading of the value of education GCSE's are only useful as a lead-in to level 3 learning (A levels or similar) and level 3’s have become the baseline.

    Personally I still think there is a place for any education. There are professions where ‘proof’ that you know your stuff at a high level is essential (eg: degrees for teaching, medicine, law) but otherwise it shows that you can work at a specific level and are able to learn.
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