Zero Degrees of Sense


Today I heard something that shocked me. I heard a company is looking for an MD and the recruiters are insisting any candidate must have a degree.  If a potential candidate doesn’t have a degree they won’t even talk to them.

I can’t believe it. This is madness. What day and age are these people living in?!  What does having a degree prove?

I can partly understand if the role is junior or maybe the company wants to hire someone just out of university in their early twenties but even that is a stretch for me.

However, one would expect an MD to have years of experience and the employer one might assume, is looking for someone with experience. If so, what value is a degree achieved 15 or more years ago?

Making a degree a compulsory qualification before even speaking to someone regards a position, not to mention an MD or equivalent role, is nonsense. Here are some reasons why:

1. Experience should count for more than education after substantial amounts of time in an industry.  This (or so I thought) is blindingly obvious.

2. A degree can’t be properly applied to any role in business. Indeed, I have a university education and in no way do the qualifications make me any better or worse candidate than someone without a university education. All it proves is I had 4 years of studying and going to the pub while someone else chose experience (and probably going to the pub). Mark McCormack (founder IMG) agrees with me. In his book ‘What they don’t teach you at Harvard business school‘ he goes so far to say even an MBA will only give a basic foundation in business. Worse, an MBA may breed arrogance and a ‘I know best’ attitude.

3. If you insist on a candidate having a university education you narrow your employment pool, always a bad thing.

4. A role should be hired for on appropriate ability and experience. Would having a degree in English literature make anyone ‘better’ for an MD role in a retail business for example?

5. There are so many examples of very successful people not having a university education. Richard Branson and Steve Jobs spring to mind.  It’s just not necessary.

6. A good education is not any measure of ability.  Like wise, masses of experience isn’t either but experience counts more at MD level.

I’ll never work for a company which employs such an policy, what a dreadful management decision to put in place such foolish benchmarks and/or allow it to be used.

Indeed, it is a reflection on management that such a policy is allowed to flourish. One suspects it’s because someone ‘smart’ suggested ‘we only want the best people’ and in their world this means those who chose to go to university.  Of course, any employer would be mad not to want to best people for any role they have available but ‘best’ does not automatically mean one must posses a university education.

Implicitly the policy suggests that anyone who chose not to go to university is ‘not good enough’ to work at the business. What foolish arrogance this displays.  My blood boils!!

I’d better stop writing, I hope any reader gets the point I am trying to make!


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