Want a job in Canadian tech? Don’t worry about that university degree

Google, Apple and IBM are all able to hire the savviest and smartest people on the planet. But lately, the tech giants have decided a four-year university degree is no longer the best indicator of a candidate’s aptitude. In fact, 15 of North America’s top technology companies don’t require potential employees to have a post-secondary education, according to research by Glassdoor, an employment website. The trend is evident in Canada as well, with top employers like Shopify, an e-commerce platform, identifying talent in new and novel ways.

Companies now recognize that a degree doesn’t always signal talent. Often the most unique, creative, outside-the-box thinkers skip the conventional route meaning educational requirements remove some of the best candidates from the talent pool. “When we started, a lot of companies were adamant that their hires needed degrees,” says Jeremy Shaki, CEO of Lighthouse Labs, which runs coding bootcamps. But in an industry with rapid growth, companies are now willing to consider these students with unconventional backgrounds. Shaki’s company has produced over 1,000 developers in the past five years. Thirty percent of students had no zero coding experience. “They started to come back for more and more of these people,” explains Shaki.

Shaki has noticed educational requirements being phased out by many of the companies hiring his grads including Slack, Telus, MetaLab, Freshworks, TouchBistro, Perficient and Shopify.

At Shopify, job postings have never demanded a university or college degree. But the company is even more open minded. “We don’t require any background or specific amount of experience in any specific field,” says Anna Lambert, director of talent acquisition. Instead, we want someone who can make a impact.” In seven years and nearly 3,000 hires, Lambert’s watched a noticeable shift in the search for top talent. “There’s less focus on experience and more on your ability to do the job,” she says.

Lambert’s recruitment team includes someone who used to be a welder. “Her background is very different, but somehow totally applicable.” So how exactly can companies looking for new and different talent get people—like welders—to apply for seemingly unrelated gigs? Firstly, recruiters should brainstorm a list of required skills than a checklist of credentials. Too many people will see a call for specific experience and decided they aren’t qualified. Instead, try to make all people feel welcome. “A more inclusive job posting will show that you know experience comes in all forms—and you want that,” says Lambert.

Meanwhile, job seekers should recognize their own experience—whatever it may be—is valued and valuable. “Just because you don’t have a specific skill set, maybe you have something else that makes you great,” says Lambert. Don’t mention the degrees or experience you don’t have. “Focus on demonstrating the impact that you’ve had wherever you’ve have it,” she says. Then double down on the potential that your unique talents and experience will bring to a company that’s happy to have you.

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