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College degree doesn’t automatically make applicant the better qualified candidate

by on
in Hiring,Human Resources

In many cases, better-educated applicants are better qualified. But don’t be intimidated into thinking that more education always equals a more qualified candidate.

It doesn’t, especially if the job description doesn’t include higher education as an essential job qualification.

That’s why it’s always smart to start the promotion or hiring process with an updated job description. Then, list the minimum skills, education levels and experience requirements.

Every candidate who meets the minimum requirements should be considered, but additional education shouldn’t mean extra points unless that education is relevant to the job.

Recent case: When Johnnie Graise didn’t win a promotion that he wanted, he claimed age was a factor. The company passed over Graise, 52, in favor of a 43-year-old co-worker.

Both wanted a position as a plant superintendent at the Grand Gulf nuclear plant.

The job required a high school diploma or equivalent plus eight years’ experience.

Graise met the minimum requirements and also had a college degree. The other candidate, who had just a high school diploma, had more experience in plant security.

Hiring managers chose that experience over the additional education, and Graise sued for age bias, claiming he was better qualified.

Not so, concluded the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A college degree didn’t automatically make Graise better qualified because the job didn’t require higher education. (Graise v. Entergy Operations, Inc., No. 05-60966, 5th Cir., 2006)  

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