While education is a common benchmark during the hiring process, experience is often a better teacher.
Exorbitant student loans constitute just one reason why young people eager to experience the world may want to reconsider college.
There is now $1.2 trillion worth of college debt in the United States, and the average borrower will graduate $26,600 in the red, according to The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) Project on Student Debt.
None of this guarantees a job or even that a college grad will be job-ready, something I keep in mind as a veteran entrepreneur and CEO of E.J. Basler Co.
After four weeks of business school, I, the son of a businessman, had realized that the professor had no real-life experience running a business and that I wouldn’t learn the practical principles necessary to succeed. But I stuck with business school for two years until I dropped out, and I haven’t had any regrets 40 years later. Hands-on experience trumps a degree all the time.
Factor in the fact that necessary business skills evolve faster than the time it takes to earn a degree, and the overall lack of preparation for the real world provided by college and the choice to save time and money is a no-brainer.
Business owners and hiring managers should see past the college degrees of potential employees, or lack thereof, and focus on the content of an applicant’s skills and character. Here’s what I look for when hiring.
- Do not accept any bad attitudes. A bad attitude spreads like the flu, and if you don’t stop it, it’ll make your whole team sick. Good attitudes will spread too, so look to hire people with a positive nature. Is the prospective hire full of complaints about previous employers? Don’t be surprised if you become the next target of such whining. No one is indispensable. I have interviewed people who were clearly bright and skilled. Yet, afterward, I felt like telling them not to let the door hit them on the way out. I’ve never regretted my decision to insist on good attitudes.
- Hire friends very cautiously. They can become your best employees. Often, however, they are your worst, and they’re hard to fire. Hire family members even more cautiously. Let them know the ground rules and expectations up front. And treat them like the rest of your employees. I hear horror stories all the time from business people who are suffering because of family involvement. But it can also work very well – it has worked out well for me.
- Hire not only for skills but also for potential. Leaders can be made if trained and motivated properly. I’ve seen many young people with no previous experience or knowledge of my business learn a trade or skill and prosper and excel. Many times, it’s even an advantage to start from the beginning with someone who does not have the baggage of bad habits or practices from a previous employer.
- Put people in the right positions. Test them for their personality and skill sets. There are many tests – one good one is the Meyers Briggs and the DISC profile. It’s hard, sometimes, to understand where people fit, which is why we try to use testing to learn about their particular skills.
A college degree is a generic qualification and is by no means the ultimate criteria by which you should hire talent.
Ed Basler is a longtime entrepreneur and CEO of E.J. Basler Co., (www.ejbasler.com), which provides precision-machined parts and solutions to companies worldwide. He is a sought-after motivational speaker and president of Fresh Eyes Coaching, a firm that helps small businesses identify profit opportunities and obstacles. Ed and his wife, Cathi, also founded and ran a nationally recognized not-for-profit youth organization for 15 years. He is the author of “The Meat & Potatoes Guide to Business Survival: A Handbook for Non-MBA’s & College Dropouts.”
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