Some of the most prestigious brands and most sought-after employers have long reserved themselves for those who have graduated from university with a degree. But the times they are a-changin’, as Bob Dylan once sang.

The shift in recruitment practices is taking place across a range of different sectors, with technology and accounting firms amongst those who have recently decided that a university degree is no longer a requirement.

The reason many employers are adopting a less rigid stance when choosing their ideal candidates relates to a combination of recruitment and talent management challenges.

July 2018 marked the 94th consecutive quarter of job creation in the USA, with 219,000 jobs added – significantly above ahead analysts’ expectations of 185,000. In the UK, the second quarter of the year saw unemployment rates hit a 43 year low of 4%. China is also enjoying low unemployment. A rate of 3.83% (June 2018) is the lowest it’s been since 2002. Meanwhile, many developed economies are experiencing the effects of declining birth rates, leading to reduced numbers of people coming on to the job market.

In addition, employers are increasingly waking up to the importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I). Google is one of the most visible brands taking its D&I responsibilities seriously. In its most recent diversity report, it details its aims, strategy and progress to date: “... despite significant effort, and some pockets of success, we need to do more to achieve our desired diversity and inclusion outcomes,” the report says.

Google’s Workforce Composition 2014-2018

Image: Google’s Workforce Composition 2014-2018

As a result, we are witnessing employers having to rethink their recruitment and retention strategies. This involves working harder to support minority communities within their employee base, as well as attracting new employees from a wider talent pool.

An emphasis on experience

For many years, Google was famed for requiring all employees to have a university degree. That is no longer the case. Peruse the job ads over at Google and you will see phrases like “bachelor's degree or equivalent practical experience” listed in the role requirements for sales managers and software engineers alike.

It’s a significant change of outlook, and Google is not alone.

Publishing giant Penguin Random House dropped its degree requirement in 2016, and in 2015 the global accountancy firm EY announced it would no longer evaluate potential employees on their degree or other academic qualifications; Deloitte has done much the same, as has PwC. “The world of business is changing, and there are now many professional opportunities available to you straight out of school,” according to the PwC website for school and college leavers.

Another sought-after brand that no longer stipulates the need for a degree in its job ads is Apple. From retail to engineering, the company that recently saw its market capitalisation hit the $1 trillion mark, now puts the emphasis on experience rather than university attendance. Again, Apple is placing significant emphasis on the D&I efforts it is making. “The people here at Apple don’t just create products – they create the kind of wonder that’s revolutionized entire industries. It’s the diversity of those people and their ideas that inspires the innovation that runs through everything we do,” it writes on its website.

With so much emphasis on the importance of a diverse workforce, it is important that employers look beyond their usual hunting grounds, and attract recruits who have a range of backgrounds and mindsets, reflecting the make-up of the population at large.

For those entering the job market, there may never have been a better time to trade on individual strengths and seek out the best opportunities.