Why Mid-Market CEOs Should Look Beyond Degrees for Talent

Look Beyond Degrees for Talent for Mid-Market Companies

By adopting a more flexible and innovative approach to talent acquisition, mid-market CEOs can build a stronger and more resilient workforce.

Mid-market CEOs’ success relies heavily on the talent they attract and retain, but many CEOs struggle with identifying the right candidates. A degree is often seen as the holy grail, but following this narrow approach can limit diversity and creativity within the organization.

In this article, we’ll dive into why mid-market CEOs must expand their hiring criteria by adopting new strategies for attracting top performers. Doing so will build a more robust workforce and position the company for long-term success in today’s competitive market.

Relying on academic degrees alone to attract top talent may not yield promising business results. As impressive as a candidate’s academic achievements might be, that alone cannot guarantee their ability to perform or adapt to real-world scenarios. According to the National Center for the Middle Market, hiring can often be more difficult since positions requiring a 4-year degree can take much longer to fill.

It’s essential for CEOs, like you, to broaden your hiring approach beyond degrees so that you won’t miss out on talented individuals who have developed their skills through apprenticeships, internships, or self-directed learning. Not to mention, candidates from diverse backgrounds who have faced barriers to education may not be proportionately represented, resulting in a less inclusive workforce. By expanding your hiring scope, mid-market CEOs can tap into a range of talented candidates who bring unique perspectives and valuable skills to their organizations.

Other Approaches to Acquiring Talent

  • Skills-based hiring.┬áThis approach involves identifying the specific skills and competencies required for a particular role and evaluating candidates based on their ability to demonstrate those skills, regardless of their formal education or degree status. Skills-based hiring allows mid-market companies to broaden their talent pool and identify candidates who may have developed their skills through alternative means, such as work experience, self-directed learning, or apprenticeships.
  • Internships & Apprenticeships. Both approaches enable individuals who may not have a degree but show potential to gain practical experience while developing the skills necessary to succeed in a particular role.
  • Other Strategies.┬áMany other hiring strategies exist that also don’t discriminate against non-degree talent. Examples include recruiting from non-traditional talent pools, partnering with industry associations or community organizations, or leveraging technology to identify and evaluate candidates.


Several mid-market companies have successfully implemented strategies prioritizing skills and experience over degrees. One such company is Basecamp, a project management software company that strongly emphasizes hiring based on skills and potential rather than on formal education. Basecamp’s co-founder, Jason Fried, has stated that traditional degrees are often an unreliable indicator of job performance and that skills and experience are much more important factors to consider when hiring.

To attract the best candidates and build a robust and dynamic workforce, mid-market CEOs, like yourself, should consider these alternative approaches for recruiting talent. As the competition for top talent intensifies, those who employ proven alternative strategies for attracting and keeping the best candidates will be well-positioned for long-term success.

Charles Good 
President, Institute for Management Studies
775-322-8222  |  ims-online.com  |  charles@ims-online.com

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