Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

Should Hiring Managers Accept an Online Degree?

The topic of higher education has been a shaky one as of late. For one, the majority of young graduates will be locked into debt for future decades to come. They have a great education, years worth of student loans to pay off and little prospect of finding an adequately paid job. An NYU professor is even going as far as to say student loans are immoral. No doubt it’s rough out there, but education is a necessity if you want to succeed these days. So when online education presents itself, many jump at the opportunity. It’s usually cheaper and more flexible around busy schedules. But is it credible? There are many conflicting opinions on whether or not an online education is up-to-par. As a hiring manager, should you accept candidates with online degrees?

The answer is really dependent upon you, the hiring manager or employer. Many employers say that online education is fine if it is from a credible university. Others say that it just won’t make the cut. However, if you look at the statistics you’ll find that 83 percent of executives in a survey conducted by online institution Excelsior College and Zogby International say that an online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program. The biggest stipulation though is that the online degrees come from well-known, credible universities. In light of this online education debate among hiring managers, let’s look at a few things you can do as the hiring manager to decide if a candidate with an online education is right for you.

Credible University
The biggest factor that seems to play into whether or not employers accept an online degree is where the online degree came from. There has been much controversy among online universities for not being accredited. If you have a candidate that applied to your open position and has an online degree, take a close look at the university. Is it solely online, or do they have physical locations and traditional courses as well. Usually the universities that offer both are more credible. With this it’s also possible that the candidate has completed both online courses and traditional, in-the-classroom courses as well. This seems to be the ideal situation for candidates with an online degree.

Feel Them Out

If you get an application from a candidate with an online degree, don’t rule them out completely. Like the CEO from Smarterer Jennifer Fremont-Smith states, “it’s less about where you went to school, and more about what you can do.” It’s hard to disagree with that statement. You can get a better feel for how this candidate operates in the hiring process if you are screening adequately. When you accept video resumes, you can automatically see how this candidate communicates, and they can tell you of their qualifications right off the bat. The same can be said of video interviewing candidates during the screening process, which leads us to the next.

Video Interview in the Screening Process
Rather than rule out candidates that have an online degree, why not just screen your candidates better and decide if they are right or not based on their skills. Phone interviews can take up a lot of time, 30 minutes on average in fact. Instead of spending time over the phone and not being able to get a good feel for a candidate, why not use one-way video interviewing and online video interviewing instead? You can converse with a candidate as you would on the phone, but you can also pick up on body language signs and ask them more in-depth questions about their online education and degree. Start a conversation and feel them out.

Test Their Skills
If you think a candidate is great, but are weary of their online degree, why not have them execute a task in their interview with you. For instance, if you have a candidate for an entry-level PR assistant that will be drafting up press releases, why not have them write one up for you in the interview. That way you are putting their skills on the spot and if they’re not up-to-par you can rule them out. You can administer other skills tests in your interview as well. That way you can put their online education to the test if it makes you nervous.

In the end though, the decision is yours to make. If you feel as though an online degree is not a full, real degree then that won’t change just by implementing the above tips. However, if you do have a great candidate that seems perfect for the job but want to rule them out simply because of their online education, perhaps you should put a bit more thought into the decision. The choice is yours!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by espensorvik

Nicole Nicholson

Nicole is the Content Editor for Spark Hire and mainly writes for and edits the work for the Spark News blog. She graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She has a passion for writing, editing, and pretty much anything to do with content. In her free time she frequents the Chicago music scene and writes reviews on shows for her own personal blog. Connect with Nicole and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter