What Do You Look For: Education Or Experience?

victoria worrell

23rd August 2016

That time of the year has come around once again when students are graduating and have started to hunt the job boards in order to find their first full time role. Their studies have earned them key knowledge in a specific subject in the hope that this will secure them a job in a top company with career growth.

However, the main question that is frequently debated is what is more beneficial for a company – education or experience?

It seems that you have to choose either or and not both, especially when looking for an entry level candidate. Do people need a higher education in order to progress in your company and help to achieve your strategy, or would it be more worthwhile for your business if young adults started working and gained hands-on experience without the qualifications behind them?

Relevant Education.

Graduates may not have the experience however; the education they receive contains core foundations of not only the subject that they study but also transferable skills that they are able to apply in business throughout their career. The basics graduates have installed into them may not appear to be necessary when you are trying to find an entry level candidate who can get straight into the work that’s required, but as their career develops this foundational skillset is something that will help the employee to plan effectively, strategise and execute their workload. You may have to invest more time in the long run to teach someone who has not received a higher level of education in order for them to become an effective member of your team.

The media have led us to believe that degrees are losing their importance due to the ever changing market however, when looking for a new employee, businesses still state that the successful candidate must have obtained a number of qualifications. This shows that education is still very much in the foreground of senior management’s mind when hiring. The academic background and accreditations proves that the applicant is capable of fulfilling the role, even if they have not had much experience.


A recent Guardian article published the results of a survey in which more than a third of UK graduates regretted attending university and 49% of survey participants believed that they would have still got to where they were professionally without their higher education. This opinion has been supported by companies who are becoming less focused on a person’s qualifications.

Over the last five years there has been an increase in the number of companies that have scrapped the requirement for a degree when searching for new employees. Global accountancy firm, EY, made the decision last year to not use academic background as part of their application process, which questions whether or not higher education does drive a business further.

The current world we live in is predominantly digital and always evolving with new technologies. In a business you need to be at the forefront of these upcoming trends otherwise you will get left behind by your competition. University does provide people with the fundamental basics and concepts that are transferable within business, but the main drawback is that they are always practically taught so they lack the experience of putting theory into practice. As the market evolves students studying are left behind as they do not learn the latest skills that will be required when they graduate.

As a business, within an ever increasing competitive market you will be looking for someone who has the experience to be able to hit the ground running is more desirable.

What will benefit your company?

This ongoing debate between education vs experience can be easily likened to what came first, the chicken or the egg? Nobody is sure and based upon your own personal preference as to what you look for in a candidate.

If you have the training budget and time to invest, then you will be able to get a graduate to the level you want. The same can be said for someone who has experience in regards to them learning the basics that will support them throughout their career. However, the more strategic hire has been a graduate due to their education as it shows that they have the knowledge and understanding and are willing to build their experience for the career they desire.

Overall, you need to look at what your business plans are for your team and the role you are hiring for as this will give a clear indication as to what type of employee you need.

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