BLUF: Great interview, thumbs up from all team members, red flag is didn't finish degree.  Would you hire?


Candidate 4 years out of school where he didn't finish his degree in order to go full time with a company he was interning with.
Aced the technical interviews and I was very positive after my lengthy behavioral interview.  This is a guy who is smart, has some business savvy, and is charismatic.  All signs from his interview are that he will be a great member of the team.  I almost pulled the trigger right after the interview.
However, on further reflection, the lack of degree has become a big red flag for me. More importantly, in his last role, as a condition of employment, he was supposed to finish his degree.  He did not, saying that the university did not accept some of his transfer credits, and was let go after a year (despite some strong accomplishments).
It's not the lack of degree alone, it's the not finishing it when a condition of his employment.  I give him credit for his honesty, and when I pushed on his accomplishments in that last role, they appear credible.   However, he didn't meet a big commitment, regardless of reason.
Would you pass on this candidate?

GlennR's picture

Hire him before he gets away.

How many famous entrepreneurs do you know that never finished college?

My COO did exactly the same as your candidate and the fact that he's a few credits shy has never impacted his ability to lead and manage.

Of course, in my culture (nonprofit) a degree is not that important. YMMV. If I was in a similar position and I was impressed by the results he accomplished in his last position as well as the positives you listed, I'd hire him in a minute.

Put the flag down. Don't fixate on the lack of degree. Look at the results he's accomplished as well as how he "fits" into your culture.

What if he's telling the truth about the credits? Why penalize him for that?


maura's picture
Training Badge

I see your dilemma, and I'd be on the fence over it too.  On the one hand, Bill Gates didn't graduate college.  On the other hand, that was a condition of his employment and they let him go after a year... to me, that makes me suspect how strong all those other accomplishments actually were. This could be a guy who talks a really good game and has the talent but, doesn't have the discipline to walk the walk and actually deliver results.  You're hiring based on his expected ability to deliver results.   

What do his references say about him?  How credible are those references?  How easy would it be to get rid of him if you brought him on and he turned out to be a flake?

acao162's picture

Is having the degree a condition of employment for your company?  If so, pass on the candidate.  He has already had an opportunity to travel that road.  I had a diploma program as a condition of my employment.  I also could not transfer some credits, which meant I had to re-do courses. Yes, it was a pain going back to "basics" but I knew that failure to graduate would leave me without a job.

The point is, if the degree was a condition of employment and zero progress was made towards that, the company was obligated to let him go.  That doesn't mean he's a bad employee.  It might mean that the cost of the education was not worth the job.  You might not have asked the right questions to know for sure.

If you don't require the degree & didn't know about the previous termination, would you hire this person?  Would your company be (financially) supportive of him obtaining the degree?  What does the degree give him over a person without? 

Those are the questions I would also ask.

zurs3c's picture

Thanks for the feedback so far.   

I don't necessarily require the degree.  If it was just that, I'd hire him.  It's the fact that he agreed to get it for another employer and didn't.

Still collecting references and will then make the call.  






SteveAnderson's picture
Training Badge

Great questions. I would trust what the candidate is telling you and go do your due diligence on those results.  If the candidate performed, is shown to be honest in the answers he gave, he may be a great fit. And, if he can see that he failed in his last job because he didn't meet that, this is great. too.  I will take someone who's bluntly honest about their mistakes and how they learned from them over someone who tries to put a glossy finish on something ugly.

Good luck.

BariTony's picture

I wouldn't penalize him just because he lacks a degree unless, as has already been pointed out, it's necessary for the position. Someone else said to do your due diligence on those results, and I second that advice.

So, why do I bother replying? In one of my previous roles at a large pharma, an individual who was very experienced and listed a PhD on his resume was hired. No one in HR bothered checking because he'd been in the field for ~20 years. However, after a couple of years, There were some performance issues and he didn't get along with his fellow managers in the company. It was then that someone from HR followed up on a rumor and called the university he graduated from. Not only did he not receive his PhD, he had handed in a dissertation that was judged unacceptable by his thesis committee. At which time, he dropped out and put the degree he never earned on his resume. He was eventually let go.

It doesn't sound like that's the situation here. Follow up with the university and his previous employer. If he's telling the truth and meets your standards, I'd hire him. If he's hiding something, then pass.