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Why Corporate Recruiters Shouldn’t Be So Obsessed With Prestigious College Degrees

Corporate executives seeking qualified employees should look beyond their existing networks and consider candidates who lack fancy pedigrees.

That’s according to a panel about workforce development at the Fortune CEO Initiative conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.

One reason that businesses struggle to find capable workers is because they have increased their hiring from top-level universities, said Byron Auguste, CEO of the workforce training nonprofit Opportunity@Work. The problem is that these schools haven’t increased the number of students enrolled to match the demand, he explained.

Additionally, an education from a prestigious university doesn’t necessarily correlate to being a good worker, said Garrett Moran, the president of another workforce training nonprofit, Year Up. Companies that automatically ignore prospective job candidates who lack higher education degrees are simply being lazy and are merely screening for keywords on a person’s resume, he explained.

Moran said that there’s “so many young people who just never had a shot” that are getting lost in the existing hiring system. These youth and young adults are just “dying for success, dying for mentorship,” he said.

Instead of hiring based on a resume or education pedigree, corporations should focus on “somebody’s ability to perform,” and contribution at work, said Auguste. This sort of on-the-job scrutiny is something that “can be directly observed” instead of relying on the conventional hiring “proxies,” Auguste said.

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“There has to be a lane in the labor market where someone can show what they can do, that their efforts lead to progress,” Auguste said. “If half the people are stuck, we’ve got a real problem and it’s not just a social problem, it’s a business problem.”