Education versus Experience? Interview Coaching, Cork
interview coaching cork

Education versus Experience? Experience Please

We reserve a particular esteem for institutions in Ireland. From the Catholic Church to various branches of the public sector a legacy of reverence is very apparent. In his recent book on the Maurice McCabe story, A Force for Justice, Mick Clifford (in prelude to the subject matter) writes about the Irish public’s traditionally positive relationship with An Garda Síochána and how it is the envy of many other European countries. An enormous body of research has been dedicated to these relationships and many would suggest that it is a holdover from our colonial past, unpopular as it may seem.

However, the fallout from many of these relationships has been spectacular, perhaps most appallingly in the case of the Church. Yet, the reverence still persists in many areas. Perhaps most notably in education. We are one of the highest educated nations in Europe, keeping alive a precious history of learning and scholarship that is very much a part of the Irish culture. However, certain machinations across the corporate world may be starting to challenge this dynamic. 

Many high profile corporations have in recent years amended their recruitment processes to either exclude or minimise the degree requirement. Perhaps the most high profile of these is EY, formerly Ernest and Young, who is 2015 abolished the requirement completely. They were furthermore very explicit about the reason behind this. 

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“Our own internal research of over 400 graduates found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment. It found no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken.” According to Maggie Stilwell, the company’s managing partner for talent. 

This was followed up by a tranche of other organisations, Google, Facebook and Apple amongst them mirroring this policy.

So, what does this say about the ever-evolving recruitment process? Quite a lot in fact. At H-Training, we share Ireland’s reverence for formal education. It has been a big part of our success and furthermore, not just from a commercial perspective, but also by providing us with the intrinsic joy of learning for learning's sake. Therefore, this post is by no means a criticism of education. 

However, the marketplace for employees has different objectives and these are reflected in many of these high-level decisions. More often than not the educational requirement serves as little more than a box-ticker, in that it opens doors that would otherwise remain shut. Many candidates have remarked on how little consideration a particular organisations gave to their Degree or Masters during an interview. While there are technical requirements that many people will need to actually perform in certain roles, many employers will simply build on these through on-boarding or in-house training. Very few graduates arrive at their new desks fully abreast of what do. Granted some of them will have frameworks and they may in fact be quite advanced in certain areas, but these are all technical skill sets.

What a qualification cannot tell a potential employer is how you deal with difficult or large personalities. Nor can it give them an insight into how you deal with pressure or the stress and compromises of day-to-day life. 

Many of these are the sort of things that only come through life-experience and perhaps hardship. While colleges and Universities are great places, the constant fattening of students with more and more information is a considerably outdated mode of education (and distinctly colonial too). We have thankful moved away from the award-winning and highly regarded academic, lecturing wordlessly with acetates and moving a piece of paper down along an over-head projector as students scribble frantically to keep up. However, we haven’t moved that far from such practices, which in an information age is nothing short of laughable. 

What employers want to know is who you are. They don’t really care too much about what you know, provided it is sufficient. H-Training’s preference is in the majority of cases for experience. This is far better evidence of your ability to respond maturely than any letters after your name can provide. 

And there is a further point to make in this fashion. The reverence for the esteemed institution the graduate emerges from can often contaminate the graduate with their own self-reverence. Many candidates embarking on careers can exhibit no small measure of arrogance as they embark on changing the world armed with their certificate. This, in our experience, is the exact type of attitude that causes friction in the workplace and damages teams considerably. It is important to reflect that although your qualification is a great achievement there are a multitude of ways we need to develop into a high functioning professional. 

However, this development does not always need to take place in industry. We have encountered many younger candidates who have overcome great challenges in their lives at young ages, which means they are no strangers to struggle and know a thing or two about life and perseverance. 

What better qualification could anyone ask for?

H-Training is a premium learning and development organisation based in Cork, Ireland but in operation internationally.

For more information visit H-Training. net or get in touch here

About the Author Ciaran Hourican

As a professional coach, mentor and facilitator Ciaran has a passionate interest in developing competencies at all workplace levels but particularly in first-line and mid-level managers. His well-developed skills in coaching and his unique approach gains the confidence of clients and supports them towards significant development.

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