Demanding a degree doesn't always make sense

Diane Stafford
Kansas City Star

You're sure you could do the job, but the posting says a bachelor's degree is required and you don't have one.

Requiring at least a bachelor's degree is one of the more popular — but perhaps inefficient — applicant screening tools spawned in Internet-based hiring systems. A labor analytics firm, Burning Glass Technologies, recently reported on this "upcredentialing" requirement, finding that employers now ask for more education from new hires than is held by existing workers in the same jobs.

For example, 65 percent of job postings for executive secretaries and executive assistants call for bachelor's degrees, but only 19 percent of people now in those jobs hold such degrees, the report said.

A college degree may give employers a barometer of an applicant's skills, intelligence, tenacity and, possibly, economic security. But Burning Glass said it's also "a trend that could shut millions of Americans out of middle-skill, middle-class jobs," given that two-thirds of the workforce lacks bachelor's degrees.

This is why you need to develop and use personal networking — to somehow use people you know (and the people they know) to get past the degree-required screening device.

In a related vein, I recently heard from a job-hunting reader who said she saw fewer and fewer ads that included "willing to train." Employers' desire to find workers who are ready from day one, no training needed, also shuts out applicants who could do the job given minimal training but know they aren't perfect as is.

You have to use personal networking to reach and convince hirers you're capable.

Yes, technology has made jobs more complex. But the skills needed in many jobs can be obtained through associate degrees from community colleges or professional credentialing and licensing programs.

Find a way to tell employers you're equal to the task.