Candidate Trends: How to Track Applicants Without College Degrees

With the growing awareness of the importance of a diverse workforce, companies have started to look beyond traditional hiring criteria and focus on candidates with different backgrounds, experiences and qualifications. In fact, Google, Apple, IBM and many other tech giants are no longer looking for candidates with a college degree. 

While many recruiters agree that practical experience and skills are much more valuable than a college degree, they also find it challenging to track candidates without a degree. The issue is particularly worrisome because it can lead to biased hiring decisions. 

A major reason recruiters have difficulty assessing the actual quality of candidates without degrees is that many organizations (this includes 98% of Fortune 500 companies) are leveraging the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) for the initial selection phase. 

But when you want to look outside the box and hire candidates without college degrees, how can you make the ATS work for you? 

Here are four ways for making sure your ATS doesn’t miss out on amazing talent from non-traditional backgrounds. 


Scan the Resumes for Certifications Rather Than Degrees 

When you’re shortlisting the candidate pool, scan for relevant certifications — instead of degrees. This would help include the non-degree holders with relevant certificates in the next stage of the selection process. 

There are many certification programs available outside the traditional college system, and these can be just as effective in proving candidates’ abilities. For example, if you need someone proficient in graphic design, you might want to search for applicants who have Adobe Photoshop certifications rather than a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Designing. 

This is especially crucial if you’re hiring for niche skillsets in IT or the field of data science (e.g., AI/ML), where it’s difficult to find candidates with relevant degrees but easier to find those with relevant certifications from popular courses platforms or universities. 


Search for Keywords That Highlights the Practical Experience 

Practical experience is another way to assess candidates who don’t have degrees. This can include internships and job training programs or even a candidate’s freelance work history. You may not be able to tell how much education a candidate has had through this route, but you can tell how good they are at the job. 

This is why you need to include keywords that touch on the experience of the candidates based on the role they apply for. You can also look at a few samples of the resumes of the non-degree applicants to understand the keywords they use to highlight their expertise and double-back and use similar keywords for the initial scanning. 


Utilize a Recruitment Form & Tracking System with Flexible Fields 

One of the top necessities in tracking and choosing applicants with college degrees is to have a customizable recruitment form and tracking system.  

Depending on your requirements, you can add fields like ‘Education,’ ‘Certification’, or ‘Credentials’ in the form so that candidates without college degrees can showcase their expertise. 

This is especially helpful if you have candidates from non-traditional backgrounds or alternative educational paths, such as coding camps, boot camps and other specialized courses. It not only makes things easier for you but also allows you to consider people who might otherwise fall through the cracks of your tracking system. 

You can also use the recruitment forms to understand the candidates beyond the information in their resume — like the cultural fit with your organization. It all boils down to asking the right questions to the candidates during the first phase and using the right filters and keywords in the tracking system. You can use Loop’s Recruitment Form Builder to capture all the necessary candidate information for easy initial screening.  


Leverage Gamified, Practical Assessments 

When hiring for skills-based roles, it makes sense to test those skills before hiring. A gamified assessment is an exciting way to get a candidate moving through the hiring process. It doesn’t rely on resumes or degrees. It doesn’t rely on interviews. Instead, it uses practical tests that give you insight into how candidates solve problems and perform under pressure. 

Gamified assessments are a proven method of identifying candidates with the right skill sets, but they don’t have to be complicated or expensive to set up or manage. When you’re unsure of a non-degree holder’s skill, you can leverage the gamified assessments to put it to the test.  


With the right tools and approach, you can effortlessly track and include non-degree holders in the recruitment process and find the best candidate for the role.  

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