“The person with the Harvard degree isn’t the best choice” – How to Make Your Best Hires Ever.


As a candidate, you see “BS/BA from top-tier school” on a job description frequently. You think to yourself “Guess I shouldn’t apply…”

As an employer, this should be your nightmare.

You could be missing out on brilliant candidates well-suited for the role who just may lack the Ivy League/top-tier education that you were hoping for.

It is important to remember that although education is a piece of the puzzle, it is not the WHOLE puzzle. So what can you do?

The lowest hanging fruit

Let’s talk about the lowest hanging fruit.

The first thing you should do is remove it from your job listings unless a specific degree is absolutely required, and you should never have specific schools or groups of schools listed.

This could potentially come across as discriminatory on top of the fact that there are many talented candidates who come from lesser known colleges!

If you or your hiring managers still cannot agree to take it off the listing, then list it under “preferred qualifications” vs “must have.” This way, you will still get less traditional, but still equally qualified candidates who feel comfortable applying for the listing.

Statistics alone should sway you into taking action on the thoughts above.

Adding talent to the top of your funnel can increase the chances of finding not just a good fit, but a great fit for your job openings.

Keep search criteria open

Keeping your search criteria open can swing open the door for non-traditional backgrounds of candidates who may truly be the best person for the role, and for your organization. Adding team members with diversity of thought and background are ways to make your organization thrive.

And as Liran Kotzer, CEO of Woo.io says, “The candidate with the Harvard degree, or the candidate with 10 years of experience isn’t always the right person for the job,” says Kotzer. “Sometimes the brilliant candidate with the less prestigious degree, or the candidate with one year of experience, is a much better fit.” This sentiment could not be more accurate.

Once you get past the hurdle of opening your search criteria, the work is not done there!

You still need to keep in mind that all candidates deserve an equal chance at a role with a fair interview process. Sometimes it even makes sense to scrap questions that only those with degrees would be able to answer.

Again, these are for roles that do not truly require a BS/BA. To hire and retain candidates from non-traditional paths, they need to feel wanted and fostered.

You will find over time that keeping your criteria open to ALL qualified candidates will result in a better person for the role and an overall better culture for your company.

This will better set your company up for success in the short and long-term future.


The thoughts of the author are hers alone and do not speak for/represent the opinions of her employer.