Don’t College Degrees aren't Good Predictors of Employee Successget me wrong; college degrees are wonderful for a variety of reasons, but college degrees aren’t good predictors of employee success. Your college degree tells employers absolutely nothing about how well you’ll do on the job. When I was running human resources in financial services, telecommunications and a SaaS company, I routinely skirted hiring managers’ demands for undergraduate or graduate degrees. And when candidates listed courses they took or even their GPAs (save that for your mom’s refrigerator, please), I ignored them.

Why? Listing the courses you took tells me one thing, and one thing only, which is that you sat in a classroom. I don’t know how much attention you paid to the material or if the material covered was relevant to contemporary requirements.

Good grades are not a predictor of success in the real world. All they tell employers is that you were a good student, and while that’s not useless information, there are more important details employers need to know.

Think about what matters most to an employer; that is evidence that you’ve been successful in prior employment. That’s why an effective resume features a curated list of very specific accomplishments that showcase your skills and experience. If you are a recent graduate without any employment experience, focus your resume on group projects you worked on, case studies you analyzed, or research you wrote about.

A 2021 episode of the Planet Money podcast, “Enough With Bachelor’s Degrees : The Indicator from Planet Money”discusses the inequity of using college degrees as a criteria in the hiring process, claiming that it excludes competent candidates from consideration, and has led to shortages of candidates in the job market. The fact is that most employers invest in training new hires regardless of any prior educational credentials, so a degree is of minor importance.

My own undergraduate degree is in Philosophy, so being able to discuss Sartre’s Being and Nothingness hasn’t done much to inform my human resources practice, although it certainly enriched my understanding of the human condition. A graduate degree in English gave me insight into literary criticism and pretty much made it impossible for me to join a book club. If I had it to do over again, I would do it over again; I was privileged to have parents who could afford to indulge this particular endeavor. My point is that while earning a degree can enrich your inner life, it isn’t vocational training, and so may not have any bearing on how well you’ll perform at a job. And while a college degree may be a criteria for getting hired, it shouldn’t be.

If your degree was in a STEM discipline, that may be relevant to many employers. Maybe. But especially in STEM-related jobs, things change so quickly that coursework can become outdated before the ink on your diploma dries. And in any case, academia isn’t the real world.

Leave lists of your coursework and your GPA off your resume, and focus instead on telling the story of how you apply what you have learned in prior employment.

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