Tech Talent Looking Slim? Tear Down the Educational Barrier
The demand for skilled and innovative talent has never been higher in the rapidly evolving tech industry. However, the conventional recruitment process often favors candidates with impressive educational qualifications, inadvertently excluding many highly skilled individuals who lack certain formal degrees. Here at ActiveCampaign, a leading martech company, we are taking a bold step forward by tearing down the educational barrier and embracing skills-based hiring. In doing so, we are unlocking a wealth of untapped potential and promoting true equity in our talent acquisition process.
The traditional approach to hiring in the tech industry has long been centered around educational credentials and, sometimes, looking the part. Employers have frequently relied on academic degrees as a quick and easy way to assess a candidate’s suitability for a role. This approach, while seemingly convenient, has its limitations. It may overlook exceptional candidates who possess the skills, experience and passion for the job but lack specific educational qualifications.
As a woman of color, college dropout and now ActiveCampaign engineering director herself, Olivia Wong knew this underdog story all too well. As she entered the tech space, she realized right away that she was different. However, what she also soon came to realize was that difference was power. When she started her own tech company as a software engineer, she said she had to look in unorthodox corners of the workforce to hire. This meant that although she couldn’t hire the expensive college graduates, she was able to give other underrepresented groups a chance in tech.
“Talent and drive can come from anywhere,” said Olivia. “And sometimes the circumstances that block people from the traditional, degree-based path into tech, such as a lack of finances or adverse circumstances or bias, can hone talent and drive in unexpected, amazing ways.”
This progressive approach to talent acquisition opens the door to a more diverse and innovative workforce. It allows individuals who may have acquired their expertise through self-learning, online courses, workshops or practical experiences to have an equal opportunity to showcase their skills and be considered for a position in the tech workforce.
Our talent team at ActiveCampaign has recognized the flaws in this traditional approach and made a conscious decision to shift its focus toward skills-based hiring. Our philosophy is simple: if a candidate demonstrates exceptional expertise and proficiency in their field, their educational background should not hold them back from being considered for a role.
As the talent acquisition coordinator/sourcer at ActiveCampaign, I am an ardent advocate for an inclusive recruitment process. The approach is not about disregarding education entirely but rather looking beyond it as the sole criteria for assessing a candidate’s potential.
While it’s common for companies within our industry to be particular in the schools they choose to target – our hiring teams have steered away from those limiting practices since the beginning. Part of our recruiters’ job is writing job descriptions for new positions, some of which we’ve never hired before. In working alongside hiring leaders to build these new roles, there’s a healthy amount of challenging to rethink what makes a qualified candidate.
We have recently implemented an objective and all-encompassing interview portion in the hiring process called “The AC Way.” It measures how candidates exemplify our values and factors of success. Those factors consist of having an entrepreneurial spirit, customer obsession and push for relentless growth. Department-nominated employees with tenure and special training conduct these interviews with our leadership team. Every member involved in the recruiting process would all argue that exhibiting the behaviors of those factors is far more important than any certification or degree.
Embracing skills-based hiring is mutually beneficial for both the company and the candidates. For us, it means gaining access to a broader pool of talent, including those with unique perspectives and out-of-the-box thinking. By focusing on skill and potential, we identify candidates who are not only technically proficient but also possess the adaptability and creativity to thrive in a dynamic industry.
For candidates, this shift in recruitment philosophy brings renewed hope and motivation. Many skilled individuals who were once discouraged by their lack of formal educational qualifications now have a chance to prove themselves based on their abilities.
Our approach sends a powerful message to the tech industry. It challenges the prevailing notion that formal degrees are the ultimate measure of an individual’s capability. The tech industry stands to gain immeasurably from tearing down the educational barrier and adopting skills-based hiring practices. It serves as a beacon of hope, illuminating the path toward a more inclusive and diverse tech workforce. By valuing skills over degrees, companies can unearth exceptional talent, drive innovation and build a future where potential and merit triumph over educational qualifications. It is time for the entire industry to recognize that talent knows no bounds.