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When searching for new talent, why do employers so often start off by demanding four-year degrees for jobs that don’t require them? Not sure? Neither was Joseph Fuller, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, who recently co-led a study that outlined how degree inflation is undermining U.S. competitiveness and ultimately hurting the middle class. As Peter Coy reports, Fuller describes how many human resources departments adopt the strategy to “row as close as they can to the other boats and fish there.” Yet, the pool of college grads is now severely overfished (unemployment for people with bachelor’s degrees was 2.3 percent in September.) In other words, “companies are deliberately bypassing a deep pool of talent,” that the study found “work hard, cost less, are easier to hire, and are less likely to quit.” The report references a number of employers who have figured this out already, Wal-Mart being one example where 75 percent of their store managers joined as entry-level employees and have the potential to earn $170,000 without a college degree. Fuller’s research points out that “People without a bachelor’s degree may need more training before digging into the job, but the cost of training is quickly recovered, and the training period itself can be a useful tryout.” And Fuller continues, “When I witness the person doing the work, I’m making a hiring decision based on seeing a person over time, vs. looking at a résumé. The leading cause of failed hires for this type of job is a soft-skills deficit. For that, observation is invaluable.”
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