A university degree is no guarantee

Roger Trapp has good news for job-seekers who lack academic qualificati ons

There is no doubt that in this day and age a university degree provides an important leg-up at the start of a career. But in what may give a fillip to those who have less than the excellent academic qualifications that are seemingly mandatory today, or even have no degree, they do not necessarily give shortlisted managers the edge in the selection processes for key positions.

Research just published by the executive recruitment company NB Selection shows that candidates without degrees replying to advertisements where university degrees were not a specific requirement were just as likely to be offered positions as their more academically qualified counterparts. Shortlisted candidates without university degrees had a one-in-four chance of obtaining the final position, compared with a success rate of one-in- five for graduates.

The research looked at 507 shortlisted applicants for 104 positions, mostly in the salary range pounds 30,000 to pounds 80,000 and including such posts as managing director, management accountant, human resources director and marketing manager. Some 59 per cent of the sample had university degrees and 41 per cent did not.

The project was part of continuing research by Elizabeth Marx, who heads NB's psychological assessment practice. She said: "It is clear that high- potential candidates who do not possess a degree still have the professional skills and experience to succeed in management.

"This ability is recognised by recruitment consultants and employers who believe that qualities like motivation, management style and the ability to adapt to change are a better indication of a candidate's chances of success in a new role than possessing a degree."

This may not impress those who make a huge commitment to their education largely because they have been assured that it is the only way to progress. But it may explain why they do not always succeed in obtaining the positions they are seeking.

Research from the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, published earlier this week, reveals: "Job-seeking is as competitive as ever, and some employers are still finding it difficult to recruit the really good all-round employees they want. The emphasis remains on the need for students to acquire an excellent skills package while they study and to be able to demonstrate these skills adequately to employers."

But, as Dr Marx adds, with some amount of understatement, the results of her inquiry are "especially encouraging for candidates who do not possess a university degree and may perceive they are at a disadvantage".

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