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Education or experience: What matters the most to employers?

Is education or experience more valuable to employers? Source: Getty

It’s something that plagues every potential applicant: does my future employer care more about my experience in the field, or my education?

And, traditionally, education has prevailed.

But, head of career insights at Indeed, Jay Munro, told Yahoo Finance that a recent Indeed survey revealed around 48 per cent of employers agreed that work experience was more important than education when it comes to choosing talent.

But, Munro said that figure shows it’s still a fairly even split, and it means not all employers are ready to give up education as prerequisite.

The case for experience

Munro said while some employers are holding steadfast on education, a whole heap of them have decided to remove those prerequisites from roles, especially in a tight labour market.

“They have to evolve,” Munro said.

“It’s a competitive market, and education as we know it has changed. The way candidates learn and develop is different,” he said.

On top of that, not everyone sticks to the same career anymore, and traditional education is no longer seen as the best predictor of performance.

“Soft skills are more robust indicators of contributions that employers might make,” Munro said.

So, communication, tenacity, motivation and emotional intelligence are becoming much bigger draw cards for employers.

What’s also becoming increasingly important is diversity of thought, which can stem from traditional education sources like university, but also non-traditional sources like online courses and experience in the field.

The case for education

Of course in certain professions like law or medicine, having education as a prerequisite will probably never change.

According to Seek, those candidates with experience can have the upper hand of up-to-date industry knowledge, especially recent graduates.

“Hirers that overlook candidates who have recently graduated (in favour of those with more industry experience) can miss out on the up-to-date knowledge of the industry and innovations in research and best practices that new graduates can offer,” Seek said.

Is there a clear answer?

Unfortunately it’s not black and white.

Seek said both education and experience offer valuable benefits to businesses, which means there’s no definitive winner.

But, if you’re more experience heavy, Munro said to make that known.

“People should make phone calls to recruiters and do a soft sell, to tell a little bit about themselves, but also to ask questions about the job,” Munro said.

A quick phone call will make you stand out as a more memorable candidate, and it will make writing a resume a whole lot easier if you know what the hirer is looking for.

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