Why do you think I’m less desirable?

Published 4th July 2021, Last Updated 21st July 2021

“It’s ok. It’s only desirable. We definitely welcome applications from people who can’t fulfil that requirement”.

This is a common response when we challenge people on why an unspecified degree qualification is listed in the person spec. It demonstrates the huge power imbalance in recruitment, and the lack of understanding from hiring managers as to how their job ads can come across.

It also shows a massive amount of privilege to tell someone they should “apply anyway!” when every part of the job ad is screaming out to them that they are not welcome – or that the organisation sees them as “less desirable”.

In recent weeks a number of people from across the charity sector who didn’t go to university have shared their thoughts on why moving discriminatory degree requirements to the “desirable” section doesn’t magically make them more inclusive:

Amy Eden shared this comment on a recent LinkedIn discussion about #NonGraduatesWelcome:

“I never got a degree – when I’d see it listed in a person spec, it made me think ‘well this job isn’t for people like me’ and I’d not bother applying.

If I’m honest, listing it as desirable was sometimes worse… it was like ‘well we might like you and think you are great for the role, but we’ll always pick the person with a degree over you, because that automatically makes them better than you’.

Obviously an employer could exclude otherwise talented people unnecessarily, but as a potential applicant, it reinforced the feeling that, regardless of my talents, there were limits on how far I should aim in my career. It was probably those limits which were the biggest barrier to my career progression, before joining a Student Union that helped me see beyond that.

So I would urge any employer to think a bit deeper about the message it sends to their potential workforce, but also how it also supports the kinds of societal norms that charities and Student Unions are trying to challenge.”

(You can see the full discussion and thread here – https://lnkd.in/dQHuHVE)

Jo McGuinness shared the following thoughts in response to a recruiter defending the inclusion of a degree requirement because it was “only desirable”

“If it’s listed as desirable I would assume it is preferable. Therefore if you don’t have a degree (which I don’t), I just wouldn’t bother. It’s a huge ‘you aren’t welcome here’ sign.

Missing desirable elements isn’t a position a job seeker is thrilled to be in as it instantly puts them on the back foot.

You can follow jo at https://twitter.com/JoFundraising

We are really grateful to Amy and Jo for sharing their thoughts on this.