In this article, I shall be discussing an interesting and possibly contentious subject. For the avoidance of any doubt, I am not in any way downplaying academic qualifications. I am a huge proponent of pursuing academic studies myself. However, at times we need to be objective enough to look at things differently. It is commonplace for employers to place sole focus on academic qualifications. This might actually be hurting your hiring efforts as an employer. In this article, I will look at why that is and how best to approach hiring for your business or company.
There Is Already A Shift
Let me start by highlighting how some major corporations are rethinking this. One of the top hiring managers in Ernst and Young pointed that academic qualifications must not act as a barrier for one to get a shot. They did say that academic qualifications are still considered but not in an exclusive manner anymore. Some of the top companies in the world no longer require a college degree for some of their positions. Examples of such companies are Google, Whole Foods, Starbucks, Apple, and IBM, amongst others. The overall reason for this is that there is an ever-increasing realization that academic qualifications do not always translate into the expected performance.
The Compromised Zimbabwean Tertiary Education System
If you are still hung up on academic qualifications you might be getting it wrong. One of the reasons stems from our Zimbabwean education system. What I am about to say might not apply to all learning institutions but it is the case with most of them. The education system has generally lost its objectivity over the years. These days a student can pay someone to do their assignments and even their dissertation. A student can abscond from lectures and still sail through by bribing lecturers. This has become so rampant in Zimbabwe due to corrupt tendencies everyone literally now has. At the end of the day, this produces mediocre graduates who are ill-equipped for the industry.
You can also look at the admission processes now riddled with corruption. Someone can enrol for a program they are not even wired for. If you have the money and connections you can enrol for any program whether or not you qualify. This has led to too many students getting enrolled. Not to mention how learning institutions mostly now prioritize business over quality. Ironically, the more the number of graduates increases, the more return on investment on tertiary education plummets.
There is also an increased number of programs that have no material value to the industry. I recall in varsity, two differently titled degrees were just separated by a few modules. All these points to how banking on academic qualifications in hiring employees can be a huge mistake. It is even commonplace to hear Zimbabwean employers complaining about incompetent graduates.
Academic Education Not Always The Best Filter
There are several issues with the academic system which make it questionable. For starters, one of the ironies of life is that the education system tends to be out of reach for most brilliant minds. Most brilliant minds come from dire circumstances and fail to afford to be in school. Yet ironically those with the money can enrol even when they are not cut out for academics.
Then another issue stems from how that the academic system can actually cripple brilliant minds. Albert Einstein struggled immensely in school yet he had a brilliant mind. Interestingly, most brilliant minds feel trapped and suffocated in the academic system. This shows us that the academic system is not fully accurate at setting apart people who will perform exceptionally once hired. It is funny how you often hear people saying more than 80 per cent of the skills you use at work are learnt at work.
The other shortcoming is that academic education does not usually teach what really matters. What really matters in the real world is effective people management. Being emotionally intelligent, being empathetic, being principled, and being honest matter immensely in the real world. Academic education is usually devoid of that; you might even notice at times that academic qualifications breed arrogant and mean people. If your soft skills are weak then your academic qualifications will not make a difference.
What Should You Do As An Employer?
Obviously looking at academic qualifications will remain the easiest go-to. However, employers need to rethink the whole process. I know there is nothing as painful as the pain of a new idea. However, employers might need to start exploring daring new approaches. Comprehensive studies over the years have established that the marriage between academic qualifications and level of industrial performance is porous and fragile. Experts recommend that it might be better to focus more or most on psychometric testing.
They suggest that evaluations that assess the psycho aspects can be more objective. Employers should also start considering applicants who might not have academic qualifications. That is open to exploration but it can be a bold and rewarding move. This could mean that cover letters must now become seriously considered even more than the academic qualifications. I can also suggest that employers must consider actively scouting for talent. That way, the bureaucracies and limitations of formal application processes will not shut others out.
I think this is a very interesting subject, even a study area that Zimbabwean employers can delve into. As an employer, or a prospective employee what are your thoughts on this? I am sure I will do other follow-up articles related to this issue because it is vast. In the meantime, let us have a discussion, kindly comment your thoughts below.