This is definitely a decisive subject and one, dare I say, that limits some decision makers talent pool when going to market with a new senior hire.
Of the briefs that I have taken over the past year, roughly one-third have stipulated degree's as a minimum are essential.
In response my question is always, at what point do someone's qualifications from 20 to 40 years ago become superseded by the candidates ongoing learning, development and "scars" from doing the job.
To provide you with an illustration of this, last month I took on a new board level appointment for a large, privately owned manufacturer within Building Products. A degree was "highly desirable" as, granted, it was a technically orientated role.
I have recommended five candidates from my round of interviewing, with two experiences standing out:
- On paper an MBA, engineering degree qualified stood out. He was littered with additional, in theory, highly relevant qualifications. However, having sat down for 90 minutes to discuss his alignment to the role, I did not put him forward. And why? He'd alienate half the workforce he'd inherit and, upon listening, much of his answers were theoretical, with like substance behind them.
- Another candidate had some professional qualifications and had climbed the ladder via an engineering apprenticeship route. Grounded, vastly experienced and practical, I'd run through mountains for him, because he clearly understands the problems that operational departments face. And he was able to demonstrate how he has applied this in building previous strategies.
Although I'll dryly run through qualifications, when interviewing I am always more interested in a candidates ongoing learning habits, how they apply their learnings and how they have changed approaches based on experience.
It's a pretty bold claim to make about a book, for sure--especially one written by someone who doesn't have a business degree. Could one business book really be more valuable than an MBA? You might argue it's the type of thing you say about a book to try to get attention.