Singapore’s Education Minister, Mr Ong Ye Kung, recently called for a shift in societal mindsets when it comes to academic qualifications. Many job-seekers throughout the world, especially in lesser economically developed nations, often lack the necessary tertiary education requirements to secure a job in a decent company. However, this practice seems to be slowly dying out.

More and more companies throughout the world are opting to put potential hires through evaluations and trial periods without looking at their academic achievements and transcripts. They have found that more often than not, through training and practical experience, these ‘unqualified’ hires can learn and improve through working and rise through a business’ ranks just like any other.

These kinds of workers are becoming more common, as companies become more accepting of candidates without paper qualification, said managing director of Michael Page Singapore, Nilay Khandelwal.

Google is one of the standout companies that has been practicing this type of hiring process for years. The tech giant would mostly ignore paper qualifications or use them as a gauge of their existing knowledge, preferring to offer trial periods and training new hires into the role they are needed in.

Innovation startup Padang & Co also does not place an emphasis to academic qualifications when hiring.

CEO Derrick Chiang said he never lists the academic qualifications required for job openings at his company. He could interview university graduates as well as candidates with polytechnic education for the same job opening.

“I honestly have never thought of even asking for those (referring to paper qualifications),” he said in an emailed response to Channel News Asia.

“We don’t even bother with the transcripts of even tertiary education; just the certificate for the record.”

None of his staff was hired “solely on paper qualifications” as “hardly anyone goes to school to study innovation”, as he explained his company’s focus on innovation.

The first thing that Mr Chiang asks in an interview is “tell me your story”, an open ended question that allows him to assess the candidate’s skills and knowledge gathered from their studies and work experiences. While there had been some instances where the hired worker ended up not being a pretty bad fit, Mr Chiang never put the blame on their paper qualifications. He instead, he reasons that it was cultural or job role mismatch.

Mr Bazul Ashhab, managing partner and head of dispute resolution at Oon & Bazul said: “We are not evaluating a candidate based on their performance in a national school exam, but rather looking at the individual’s talent, recent experience and their aspirations.”

Oon & Bazul has hired candidates based on their display of entrepreneurial spirit, people skills, and ability to understand objectives while tackling problems with a solution-driven mindset. The firm also pays little to no attention to paper qualifications when considering a candidate’s abilities.

“In some cases, we have even adjusted certain roles to ensure that the candidate would have a better chance of success.,” said Mr Ashhab.

The overemphasis on grades was touched on by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung in a recent episode of Talking Point, a CNA current affairs programme.

He said while it is “reasonable to ask for qualifications”, companies should not be listing down minimum grades for individual subjects unless the job requires particular subject knowledge. He also stated that social mindsets need to shift to reflect this.

Recruitment experts are also in agreement, saying that while academic qualifications can be a useful point of reference to gauge knowledge proficiencies, they cannot be the sole hiring factor for companies, especially when they serve as a barrier that prevents job-seekers from applying.


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