DEGREE SPECIFICITY IS A USELESS LIMITATION
Heavy-construction firm OHL North America has a strong campus recruiting program andhires graduates from some of the top engineering programs across the country. However, inrecentyears, the company has widened its net, considering graduates with non-civil-engineeringdegrees. OHL looks at applicants with any kind of engineering degree—mechanical,electrical,materials—for field or project engineering positions, and it is even more flexible whenrecruiting for other positions, said Adam Ingber, OHL’s chief human resources officer.Do you want to be a cost engineer? Typically, we would like a civil engineer in that position,but now we’ll look at people from all different types of backgrounds, he said. We’ll look atpeoplewith business backgrounds, for instance, or finance and accounting. We’ll also look atsomeone who has an MBA who never even thought of working in construction becausethey can help usimprove systems and process and process analysis. The company is currently hiring aproposal manager and is willing to look at candidates with English or liberal arts degrees,Ingber said. This departure from a single-degree recruitment strategy to a more diverseone is slowly catching on across the country, and the results are promising.Just in the last couple of years, there’s been a significant increase in the number ofemployers who are becoming school- and even major-agnostic, explained StevenRothberg, founder of College Recruiter, a job search website for recent graduates.Employers are finally realizing that what they used to call requirements are actuallypreferences. Why? It’s simply a lot harder to hire people. Employers have a choice: Hire aless-than-perfect person in a few weeks or a month and train them, or wait six months or more for a perfect person.Rothberg added that, according to HR data, those less-than-perfect new hires are often justas productive—if not more productive—than degree-specific hires. Speed of hire aside,there are myriad reasons that making non-degree-specific hires is a good idea. You mayalso save your company a significant amount of money while creating a more productiveworkforce. In computer programming, hiring someone from a certain school who has acertain computer science degree is going to be more expensive than hiring someone elsewho may turn out to be a better programmer, Hyman explained. When you, redevelopingsoftware, candidates from a traditional computer science background think similarly. Thatoutside programmer learned to think differently, ask different questions and take a differentapproach to problem-solving. In the end, they, re not only coming up with the right code,but they may also be thinking about intangibles, like marketing and sales.Kimberly Betz, the executive director of the Center for Career Development at PrincetonUniversity agreed. We, ve known all along that the skills students learn, regardless of theirmajor, are applicable, she said. The majority of students know how to learn and are quickand adept at learning new skills. It’s much easier to train someone to do a specific job ortask than toteach someone how to do research, think critically and communicate with others. Thosenew hires may also stick around longer, Rothberg said. Employees who are hired from topschools with extremely desirable degrees may be poached away quickly or simply leaveafter a year or two. Those with degrees not directly related to their job field or withoutdegrees at all often put down deeper roots and feel more loyalty to a company that took achance on them, he said. Instead of leaving after two years, they might stick around for fiveor 10. To find the best candidates for OHL, Ingber said he looks for resumes that highlightachievements, as well as candidates’ interpersonal skills and what they like to do outside ofwork.