Evaluating education in recruiting

Last updated:
May 11, 2021
December 20, 2021
min read
Jori Hamilton
Table of contents

Recruiters play an integral role in helping a company grow. They seek out the most qualified candidates for vacant positions and make it their business to do everything they can to bring the right match on board. In the past, recruiting the best matches for any company was a tedious, detailed process that could overwhelm even the most qualified HR professional.  

HR professionals must evaluate each candidate's potential, taking a thorough look at their work experience, skills, and background. Because someone's potential is subjective, the question, "What is the best way to evaluate potential?" remains up for debate. Education is one element recruiters use to examine a candidate's potential for thriving in a position.

Let's take a closer look at how the recruitment and screening processes use education. We'll leave you with three ways to evaluate a candidate's qualifications concerning their true potential properly.

How the recruitment and screening processes use education

HR professionals take on the hefty challenge of attracting and retaining top hires. When they engage in the recruitment and screening processes, they're mindful of the role education plays in their methods.

Here is a bit more detail on how education is used in the recruitment and screening processes.

Recruitment process

You've probably identified whether a degree or certificate is a baseline requirement in the hiring process. Once an ideal education level is established, it influences what platforms you conduct your recruitment strategies on.

Once there, you promote open positions and talk in-depth about a perfect match's skills and educational background. Recruiters also consistently share company culture stories, like employee milestone celebrations to showcase morale, the team-first attitude, and overall employee engagement. This is one of the best ways to connect with potential candidates while continuing to bolster your employee appreciation efforts.

Recruiters have to know how to communicate with their ideal candidates, and educational level impacts communication styles. So, not only do excellent recruiters know how to look for individuals with specific education levels, they know how to talk to them to attract them to an open position.

In the recruitment process, education is used in establishing who HR professionals look for, where they look for them, and how they communicate with these ideal candidates once they've got their attention with a job ad.

Screening process

Over 75% of participants in this study agreed that completing a degree program is a "valuable signal of perseverance and self-direction" in a job candidate. So it's no wonder an ideal educational background is set as a baseline requirement in the hiring process. To most recruiters, those who possess this requirement show promise for having the necessary technical skills to perform the job and indirect life skills.

Once potential candidates start filling out and submitting applications, this academic level is used to screen and eliminate candidates who don't possess the minimum education requirement. Having educational criteria makes it easier for recruiters to start a list of the best matches.

Once recruiters start contacting applicants that may be a great match, they can follow up on the education listed in the candidate's resume in interviews.

Three ways to evaluate a candidate's qualifications

Now that you have a better understanding of how education is used in the recruitment and screening processes, you're probably wondering how to leverage this knowledge to evaluate a candidate's qualifications successfully.

You first need to know who your ideal match is in terms of their skills, work experience, educational background, key characteristics, how they'd fit into your company culture, and so forth. Once you come across a candidate who may fit your vision, the evaluation process begins.

The following tips can help you navigate this evaluation process and choose candidates closest to what you need.

Know the difference between different degrees and their value

There is a wide variety of degrees, diplomas, and certificates that could influence your recruitment strategies greatly. You should be familiar with different degrees and imply the individual who completed the program.

For example, let's say you're looking to fill a senior-level role and want to attract candidates with an executive MBA degree. You should know why you're looking for this degree. In this case, it would be because graduates from this degree program studied high-level business topics and strategies in preparation for C-suite positions. They'll not only possess the hands-on skills the position needs, but they're also likely to have soft skills like decision-making, problem-solving, and relationship-building.  

First, you should be familiar with the educational requirements of each position you're looking to fill. Do some self-directed research on each of those degrees, certificates, or diplomas, and learn why they're valuable. Take note of the unique qualities possessed by individuals who complete these programs and translate them into the position.

Education isn't everything

Although we've learned just how intertwined education is with the recruitment and screening processes, education isn't everything when it comes to determining someone's potential.

Skills-based hiring is becoming more of a popular strategy for attracting and retaining the best workers because industries everywhere report some of their best employees don't have the educational background they asked for. Instead, they possessed the skills necessary to perform the job functions and back up those skills with real-world work experience.  

Many company leaders have also expressed their disappointment with candidates who did have the educational background they desired but proved to be severely lacking in applying what they learned in their degree programs. Simply put, just because candidates have a degree doesn't mean they have what it takes to do the job.  

Instead of focusing on educational background more than skills or vice versa, you should approach your evaluation process with a creative perspective that combines the two. You could also put together a list of skills and job duties that could equal the learning you'd get in a degree program to ensure you aren't excluding any top talent solely because they don't have an educational background.

Ask for references and use them

Many HR professionals overlook the value of references. They don't even bother contacting them because they can be a hassle to get in touch with, let alone get them to participate in a detailed reference conversation.

But if you're serious about evaluating a candidate's qualifications concerning their true potential properly, you should prioritize asking for and contacting references.

References can give you a first-hand account of what it's like to work with the candidate you're vying for.

They can provide you with crucial information about a candidate's:

  • Work ethic
  • Ability to work with others
  • Leadership potential
  • Commitment to their work
  • Company loyalty
  • Personality
  • Potential for fulfilling the role
  • Potential impact on your company

You should ensure that asking for references is a part of your recruitment process. Set aside time to reach out to references provided by suitable matches. When you're able to get a hold of a reference, ensure you have a thorough process like a questionnaire or phone interview for gathering all of the information, you need to gauge a candidate's potential.


Recruiters take on the hefty challenge of choosing the right candidate for vacant roles throughout the company. To choose the best match, they must ensure they're taking a close look at who a candidate is, how they'll fit into the company culture, and what their experience and background entail.

Education is used in the screening and recruiting processes to measure a candidate's potential for thriving in a certain position. Candidates are eliminated in the screening process if they don't have the minimum required education level or equivalent in work experience. HR professionals use education in the recruitment process by compiling a list of candidates with the specified education and communicating to them based on that level.

Aside from the desired education level, you should know in detail what your perfect match looks like to ensure you're correctly evaluating a candidate's qualifications.

Know the difference between different degrees and their value. Understand that education isn't the only thing that determines the right candidate from the wrong fit. And ask for references in your recruiting process and use them to further understand a candidate's true potential.

Get the

Get the exclusive tips, resources and updates to help you hire better!

Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Linked In
Go to the top

Hire better, faster, together!

Bring your hiring teams together, boost your sourcing, automate your hiring, and evaluate candidates effectively.