The Best Person for the Job? Think Again

Lauren Weber:

Among the hiring myths that took root during the recession, here’s a particularly tenacious one: A person with a college degree makes a better employee than a person with a high-school diploma.

A September 2014 report by labor market analysis firm Burning Glass Technologies documented pervasive “credential creep” in positions that historically didn’t call for a bachelor’s degree but now are more likely to require one. For example, Burning Glass found a 21% credential gap for computer helpdesk workers, meaning 39% of workers in that field hold a BA but 60% of current job postings require one.

Employers use a college degree as a proxy for many things—critical thinking or communication skills, technical prowess, or simply the ability to follow a goal through to the end.

But what if they’re wrong, at least some of the time? What if a degree really isn’t a predictor of success or, in some jobs, is an impediment to success?

A review of client data by Sunstone Analytics, a San Francisco recruiting startup that works with several large employers, turned up some unexpected insights about what high performers have in common at individual companies.