Recruitment is one of the few industries left where there aren’t any entry requirements. You don’t need to do a degree in recruitment, or have a diploma in CVs. A lot of the job is about personality: building relationships with people, being able to ask the right questions and having a bit of a head for sales. But in many other industries, entry requirements are increasingly rigorous – you need to pass the right exams, do the right training, have done an apprenticeship or relevant degree, and much of this will need to be paid for out of your own pocket.
Of course, in many occupations this is definitely a good thing. You wouldn’t want your doctor to have anything less than stellar grades at school, have done at least 5 years of university and other few years of supervised on-the-job training to specialise. Likewise, you wouldn’t want builders putting up an extension to your house with none of the team having done it before. But where do you draw the line? Do you expect for staff to have a formal qualification in customer services when you call up about your water bill, or just to be friendly and helpful over the phone?
In the not so recent past, some good grades in school would secure a respectable entry-level job or you could go to university and get into more prestigious or technical industries like law or science and have the knowledge to work higher up the ladder. Now there are apprenticeships to complete to get into a workplace, NVQs and diplomas in a huge range of diplomas, as well as an academic route to university for young people.
It’s probably no surprise that a recent study suggested young people are increasingly confused about their options, with so many different routes into a career being offered. And with so many qualifications and entry requirements for young people, the generation currently in their twenties are thought of the most stressed in history but with comparatively worse pay and slower career progression available. Recent university graduates are now getting an average starting salary comparable with a school leaver and racking up around £40,000 of debt for the privilege.
So maybe, now that everyone and his dog has some sort of qualification, we should consider whether we’re over-examining people. After all, 1 in 6 of us is over-qualified for the job we do, be that university graduates serving coffee or mothers being forced to take whatever part-time work is available to have time for childcare too. In many jobs, just as in recruitment, it’s your personality that can drive your success, not your knowledge of the theory.
Being a quick learner, a problem-solver or simply just the gift of the gab may well provide you with more success in your career than any exams you sit. It’s well-known that many successful businesspeople haven’t got stellar school grades. And if everyone has got the same raft of qualifications, what else but your personality will differentiate you?
So next time you’re applying for a job, don’t forget to let your personality show through. And if you’re hiring, don’t be afraid to speak to those candidates who don’t quite have all the right qualifications. You can always train someone to do a process, but you can’t train for personality.