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Attitudes toward online degrees have changed: It’s no longer a necessity that candidates have traditional four-year degrees to be considered for professional positions. Not only has online education become more popular, it has also become more sophisticated, with virtual learning experts developing immersive, dynamic online courses that are as valuable and informative as their on campus counterparts.
This shift has caused recruiters and hiring managers to take a new look at how they evaluate a candidate’s education and experience. While several years ago an online degree may have been considered inferior to a traditional degree, that sentiment has significantly changed.
CDI subsidiary MRINetwork, found in its 2017 Recruiter Sentiment Study, that more than 50 percent of recruiters and almost half of employers (43 percent) have no preference for candidates based on traditional versus alternative degrees. Another 13 percent of employers even prefer candidates with alternative degrees.
“Online degrees are here to stay, and that means that employers have to adapt the way they evaluate candidates in terms of their educational backgrounds,” says John Lewis, director of sales operations for CDI Corporation. “Otherwise they may pass over the qualified candidates they need for their blended workforce.”
Lewis recommends three best practices for what employers should consider when presented with a candidate who has an online degree:
1. Look for accreditation
With the sophistication of today’s virtual learning software and models, online degrees can be just as prestigious as those earned from traditional universities. The online program might be offered by a brick-and-mortar institution, such as the University of Cincinnati or Harvard University, or it may come from an online-only institution. Either way, if the program is accredited, that’s a strong sign that it’s a high-quality, respected program. U.S. News & World Report recommends that employers look to see if the school is accredited by the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. There are also smaller state or regional accreditations that can also attests to a program’s substance.
To further evaluate a candidate’s education ask what their program was like, why they enrolled in it and if it enriched their learning, taught valuable skills and prepared for their desired career.
2. Evaluate experience
Clearly, the degree itself is not the sole determining factor of whether a person has the skills and perspectives necessary for the job – experience plays a key part as well. In fact, in a survey of 50,000 employers conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education, experience outweighed academic credentials among all industries, particularly in the science/technology, services/retail, and media/communications segments. Internships and employment during college rose to the top of the list as the most heavily weighted attributes considered by employers.
Employers also recognize that earning an online degree is not easy, especially when many who chose this form of education are juggling jobs or family obligations at the same time. Undoubtedly this experience has helped them gain technology skills, discipline and time management abilities that are applicable in nearly every profession, regardless of whether the position is a permanent or a contract engagement. Use interviews to not only ask candidates about their work, volunteer and travel experiences, but also to inquire how the e-learning experience has enabled them to effectively manage a diverse array of tasks.
3. Focus on cultural fit
In addition to degrees and experience, cultural fit has become increasingly important in determining whether a person would be well-suited for a job. During the interview process, employers should try to get a sense of whether the candidate would mesh well with the mission, values and social climate of the company. For example, a candidate who strongly prefers to work alone with little oversight may not function well in a company where collaboration is prioritized. Asking behavior-based questions such as "What do you believe is the ideal work-life balance?" and "How do you deal with stressful situations at work?" can help you get a sense of a candidate’s cultural fit.
“While the perception of alternative degrees is still evolving, online degrees are no longer automatically being dismissed by employers and recruiters,” concludes Lewis. “Today’s tight candidate market demands that they find the best talent for both permanent and contract employees, rather than limiting their searches unnecessarily.”
Recent CDI Analysis
“Online degrees are here to stay, and that means that employers have to adapt the way they evaluate candidates in terms of their educational backgrounds. Otherwise they may pass over the qualified candidates they need for their blended workforce.”John Lewis
Director, Sales Operations
Employment Situation (U.S.)
U.S. nonfarm businesses lost 33,000 positions in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the past year, the country has added an average of 172,000 jobs per month.
This is the first time payrolls have registered a decline since 2010. The BLS attributed much of the decline to the impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Economists had estimated job gains of 80,000 for September, Bloomberg reported.
"I don’t think this is indicative of problems in the labor market – it’s because of the hurricanes," said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group, in an interview with the source. "The economy is in decent shape, the labor market continues to improve and we’ll bounce back to job growth in the final three months of 2017."
The unemployment rate dropped to 4.2 percent in September, falling 0.2 percentage points from August. Also, the number of unemployed persons decreased by 331,000 to settle at 6.8 million for September.
Average hourly wages for private nonfarm employees increased by 12 cents in September to reach $26.55. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 2.9 percent.
The Federal Reserve has indicated that it is looking for wage growth as a signal to raise interest rates, which, last month, it said it would increase one more time by the end of this year, according to Bloomberg. Economists expect the rate hike to come in December.
Transportation and warehousing added 22,000 jobs in September, while financial services gained 10,000 positions. Professional and business services added 13,000 jobs. Insurance carriers and related activities added 11,000 jobs during the month, with much of that sector’s employment gain due to hurricane recovery efforts, the BLS noted.
The full Bureau of Labor Statistics report can be downloaded by
Employment Situation (Canada)
Canada added 10,000 jobs in September, according to the Labour Force Survey released by Statistics Canada. The gains were in line with economists’ expectations, and brought the total number of employed persons in the country to 18,454,000.
September was the 10th consecutive month of job gains in Canada, which is the longest streak seen since February 2008, CTV News noted. Average hourly wages also continued to grow in September, increasing by 2.2 per cent compared to the year prior. This was the largest increase in wages seen since April 2016.
The unemployment rate held steady at 6.2 per cent, its lowest level since October 2008. Over the year, Canada has added 320,000 jobs, constituting an increase of 1.8 per cent.
"Make no mistake, this is a strong report despite the somewhat sub-par headline job gain," said Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter, in an interview with CBC News.
Full-time employment increased by 112,000, while part-time jobs fell by 102,000. Porter noted that the gain of full-time jobs is the second-largest seen in records going back four decades, the source reported.
The public sector added 26,000 jobs in September, with little change seen in private-sector employment. Compared to a year prior, public-sector jobs increased by 2.8 per cent while private-sector positions grew by 1.4 per cent.
Educational services added 20,000 jobs during the month, and the information, culture and recreation sector shed 24,000 positions. Wholesale and retail trade employment increased by 17,000.
The number of self-employed workers remained relatively unchanged in September. This class of professionals has increased by 2 per cent on a year-over-year basis.
Interest rate hikes on hold?
The modest job gains in September suggest that the Bank of Canada may not raise interest rates for a third time this year, according to CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld, the National Post reported.
"Overall, the 10,000 pace is about what we would expect as a trend if GDP growth is tailing off to the two per cent range in the second half of the year, enough of a slowdown to keep the Bank of Canada on hold until 2018," Shenfeld wrote in a research note to clients.
Canadian ES Report:
Labour Force Survey, September 2017