For me, the answer is a resounding “no.”
Make no mistake. I value my college education. In the Philippines, it’s a tremendous privilege to attend a prestigious university. Apart from the top-notch facilities and professors, you also get to form a network of friends and acquaintances that could prove useful later on.
Then there’s the fact that a diploma from any of the Big Four universities here can open a lot of doors before you even officially graduate.
But the longer I’ve gotten immersed in remote work and in the real world, the more I’ve come to realise that the right hard and soft skills matter more than a diploma from any university.
Let me give you an example. I’ve been working alongside the same team for the past five years. The person in charge of SEO is one of the best I’ve seen in the field, but he has no college degree. He acquired his skills and expertise the old-fashioned way: on the job, through loads of self-study and experience. But I have yet to meet any SEO practitioner who can explain things better than he can (or execute them as well).
(Okay, enough flattery since he’s probably reading this while optimising content.)
Now that remote work is becoming more widespread, I think college degrees will become even less relevant. Let’s take a look.
Why College Degrees AREN’T So Important in Remote Work
Let’s get something straight. There will always be jobs that require college degrees. Doctors, engineers, architects, and lawyers, for instance. You wouldn’t want to get treated by a doctor who didn’t go to medical school, right? Ditto for hiring unlicensed architects or engineers to build you a house or building. That would be stupid….and dangerous.
However, a college degree shouldn’t be a prerequisite to getting a decent job. This has long been the case in remote work, where employers couldn’t care less about where you went to college (or even if you did, to be honest).
In the remote working industry, clients are more concerned about what you can actually do- and how long you’ve been doing it. Certifications might matter, but only if they pertain to your core skill. Given how Google now offers career certificates, you don’t even need to go to college for them.
Also, the vast majority of remote jobs just don’t require a college degree. Think virtual assistants, social media managers, customer service representatives, and payroll clerks. Heck, even tech-related remote positions don’t require them. Lots of computer programmers, website developers, and IT professionals do their jobs just fine without a college degree.
In the world of remote work, a hefty design portfolio can have more value than an MBA from an Ivy League school. Furthermore, there is a greater demand for creative or technical courses, which aren’t exclusive to universities, especially now that automation is becoming the norm. The ability to solve complex problems and to devise creative solutions matters more now, regardless of your educational background (or lack thereof).
And it looks like traditional employers are starting to take note.
What Should You Be Looking At Instead?
Okay, so we’ve established why college degrees are the last thing you should look for when hiring your remote workforce. Now, what SHOULD you look for?
First, consider a candidate’s work ethic and attitude. Are they open to learn new things to do their job well? Do they abide by deadlines? Can you easily get in touch with them during prescribed working hours? Are they able to successfully collaborate with their colleagues?
These seem like minor things, but they’re actually important indicators. Skills can be learned. A bad attitude is harder to fix.
Second, have a look at their work experiences. What sort of projects have they worked on in the past? Does their body of work look like they’re consciously and constantly honing their craft? Or are they more like jacks or jills of all trades? And do their work experiences suit what you need them to do?
Finally, assess their soft skills. This is harder to do on the spot, but you can keep an eye out for these during the trial period. Critical thinking, good and clear communication skills, and problem-solving skills are critical to ANY field and industry. Without them, even a college degree from the top university in the world won’t help much.
We here at Remote Staff have been recruiting top Filipino remote talent for years, regardless of their educational attainment. Our pool features people from all walks of life, but all of them are highly skilled, well-trained, and most importantly, dedicated to what they do.