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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

The recruitment challenge: does degree score forecast performance?

This is one of those times I wish I had a statistician’s skills. Maybe I ought to write to More or Less…

The BBC reported this morning that 78% of graduate recruiters are filtering out any candidates with less than a 2:1. As someone with a 2:2, and having been involved in recruitment for some years now, I take issue with this.

In my limited experience, degree score has practically no bearing on the value that an employee brings to a business. I have seen graduates with firsts last a matter of weeks, unable to make the transition from academic life to the working world. And I’ve employed people with no degree but clear aptitude who have quickly become key team members.

My indirect experience from networking events and the startup world bears this out. Sure there’s a sprinkling of academic stars but there is a much clearer common trait between the sharpest talents. It is the criterion used by Jon Bradford of The Difference Engine to select startups for his startup programme. He looks for ‘people who have done stuff’.

The example I might give of ‘stuff’ is getting involved in the students union (only because I did), but frankly it could be any kind of experience outside of academia. I want people with aptitude in my business, but the drive to actually do something is equally important. An academic qualification shows that people can perform well within given boundaries but for me the sheer score tells nothing about the person’s ability to operate independently and on initiative — qualities that are key to success in a small business/startup environment.

I couldn’t find any stats online to back up my limited experience, but I’d be very keen to see them if anyone else knows of any. Until someone can show me that degree score is a reasonable forecast of an employee’s value, I will continue to pay it little regard.

Tom Cheesewright