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I am graduating in a little more than 2 months. I have started looking for jobs and sending applications to the ones I am seriously interested in. One of the online applications had a question that said "do you currently have a bachelor's degree?" with a combobox of "Yes" and "No" as the only options. I selected "No", and about 5 minutes after I submitted the application I got an email saying I had been rejected for the position. Because of how quickly it happened on a Sunday, I'm assuming it was an automated response based on the information I entered into the form.

How should a soon-graduating student answer questions like these?

"Yes" is technically a lie, but "No" excludes very critical information.

Edit: my resume does say "Expected" for my graduation date, so it should be clear to anyone that looks at my resume that I am graduating soon.

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    "No" excludes very critical information. What information is it? Companies interested in future graduates usually ask for an expected graduate date when someone selects "no". If they don't, they want someone who already got the degree. – Tymoteusz Paul Feb 9 at 23:52
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    Were there any other questions on the application form? If so, what's leading you to think that it was the answer to this one that led to the automated response? – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Feb 10 at 16:51
  • If you have finished the degree seeking program then isn’t your graduation guaranteed? If that’s the case, you simply have to wait to receive the piece of paper, I don’t understand the reason your choosing the option to indicate you have not finished your degree seeking program. You could get the piece of paper today if you wanted more than likely – Donald Feb 11 at 5:36
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I was a recruiter/resume screener until I moved into operations. Put yes, or else your resume won’t be read.

Most of the time the form itself is not read. We have your resume which would tell us if you have a degree, so why do we have the form? So we can auto-reject you based on the details you put there. The form is meant to make life easy for us.

All the talent management systems I have worked with have this ability. On Indeed, the one I used most recently, they have an option to only view those who answer yes to having any numbers of skills and just automatically screening out anyone else. Those questions decide if you resume gets read or not.

At another company, we did keyword turf cuts, I.e. added keywords until we got about 50 resumes, skimmed them, and forwarded 20 to the hiring manager. My nephew did his engineering internship there and I got him to the final round by having him paste all the keywords for the job into a 1 point font skills section at the bottom.

At another company, any applicant who left out the awards and scholarships section got thrown out for lacking initiative. If you put student of the month from high school in there, you were ahead of over half of applicants and your resume would get read.

A friend at an oil and gas company had a great story of how one engineer got an interview and then the job because he put “crude prototype” into his resume and “crude oil” was used as a search term.

The company that I am with now has a job posting out for dev ops people with mandatory knowledge of a pile of web technologies like Spring and Node.js. Most of our developers (who make 20-30K more) wouldn’t meet the qualifications keyword searching their resumes. The dev people tell me that it isn’t part of the expected devops job. Yet the form asks how many years of Spring experience one has. We are using Indeed and have the screening on.

Just put yes. I would say close enough were I hiring.

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  • This sounds like incredibly risky advice considering a trigger-happy employer could easily use "you lied on your application" as a reason to fire you at an arbitrary point down the road. – dwizum Feb 11 at 20:13
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I graduate this semester. How should I answer “do you currently have a bachelor's degree?”

Since in fact you do not currently have a degree, the only truthful answer when given only Yes or No choices is "No".

If the online application form allows for comments, then you can clarify your answer there. Otherwise, make it clear in your resume when you expect to graduate. If the company wishes to interview not-yet-graduated candidates, they will not reject them solely for answering No to this question, and will simply look into the resume for your expected graduation date.

Never lie on an application. If you lie there and the reader finds out, they will assume you lie all the time. Most managers don't like to employ liars.

If you still have any doubts, call the HR department, explain how close you are to graduation and ask if you should reply "Yes" in your case, even though you know it is not currently true. They will indicate how flexible they are with this question, or if they truly require someone who currently has a degree.

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I will put "Yes". Resume needs to be truthful but you cannot have a technicality work against you.

You simply would have to explain (like you already did in CV) when you are interviewed. It is also possible, someone will take a look at your resume or you are called for the interview only after you graduate and in that case it wont even be a concern.

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    If your application says you have a degree and when I ask you at the interview you say you don't yet, I immediately think you have a tendency to lie.That may not mean I absolutely won't hire you for something small like this, but it's a negative. – DJClayworth Feb 9 at 17:03
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    @DJClayworth that’s still a better next step than auto rejection. – Matthew Gaiser Feb 9 at 18:06
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    @MatthewGaiser I don't understand the logic here. If the recruiter is looking to auto-reject people who don't have a degree then sure, you pass the form check but you will be rejected five minutes later when they read your resume. Result is the same either way. – DJClayworth Feb 9 at 18:59
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    @DJClayworth for new grad positions, the job requires a bachelor's degree. But the job starts after the graduation date. Nobody expects that you will wait until after graduation to apply for jobs. It is an edge case which isn't considered in the process. – Matthew Gaiser Feb 9 at 19:09
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    Yes I understand that, and that's why someone who answers "no" to "do you have a degree currently?" doesn't get auto-rejected. – DJClayworth Feb 9 at 19:45
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One thing you could do is call HR and ask them when they usually have a class of new graduates join their company. It could just be a timing issue.

If it's not that, I would suggest you contact the hiring manager directly. Do whatever you have to do to get his contact information. Use LinkedIn, alumni network, multiple cold calls, etc.

Tell the hiring manager what happened. If the hiring manager wants your resume included, it will be included.

If the same thing happens again with a different company, you should email the hiring manager and ask that question to that person directly. "Should I say 'Yes' or 'No' regarding the degree question since I'm scheduled to graduate this semester? My current GPA is 4.0" and include a link to your resume.

Obviously, only mention your GPA if you have a good one. My point is that you should use that message to try to assuage any worry that you might not graduate on schedule.

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    The hiring manager will not be pleased if you call him up to ask how to answer a perfectly straightforward question. – DJClayworth Feb 10 at 0:07
  • @DJClayworth, For the question, that's why I specified email. For the auto-rejection he already received, I think he should call him about that one. I agree. The hiring manager may not be pleased. With that said, his objective is not to please the hiring manager. His objective is get the job. Another thing he could do is call HR and ask them when they usually have a new class of new graduates join the company. It could just be a timing issue. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 10 at 0:24
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    @DJClayworth a perfectly straightforward question that has elicited a massive debate... So very straightforward... – StumpedMoneyHacker Feb 10 at 0:26
  • @DJClayworth, Also, my strategy is to always try to contact the hiring manager (even if there is no question to begin with). I've gone into great detail about that strategy into other answers before. Unfortunately, those posts have always been downvoted into oblivion. In short, the idea is to always try to bypass HR. If you can make contact with the hiring manager, the very mention of his name and the fact that he told you to submit the resume to the portal, will ensure that your resume doesn't get lost in the pile, but be put on the very top of the pile. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 10 at 1:04
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When the recruiters came to my university, several noted that if you were looking for full time positions after graduation, you should put that you have a bachelors degree as you will by the time the position is expected to start.

This advice might vary by company, but my two friends who have worked in HR say that you should say you have a degree or else your resume is going to get tossed automatically.

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    Please don't insult Joe. – DJClayworth Feb 9 at 18:51
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    If the question had wanted to know whether you were going to have a degree by the time the job started it would have asked "Will you have a degree by the time the job starts?". – DJClayworth Feb 9 at 18:53
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    @DJClayworth saying that the process would work properly if he checked it isn't an insult. – Matthew Gaiser Feb 9 at 19:01
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    @DJClayworth no it wouldn't as you assume these things are carefully developed and that the edge cases have been considered. The edge cases aren't considered at all. – Matthew Gaiser Feb 9 at 19:05
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    @DJClayworth, Very smart people can get stuck in very bureaucratic processes. It doesn't mean that they're dumb. Sometimes, it's just easier for an HR person to set a hard criterion for filtering resumes when they're already receiving 200+ resumes for each job posting. The same goes for the hiring manager. A hiring manager likely has other work to do. If he gets handed a smaller pile of 40 resumes than the 200+ resumes, he's probably not going to complain. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 9 at 23:59
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EDIT: The mere existence of this massive debate indicates that you should put Yes. It means that if you are challenged on it, confusion is very believable.

Put that you currently have one

HR does not consist of the best and the brightest. It is mostly filled by people who meandered there because they like people and graduated with a degree in whatever. It is a repository of those who have limited analytical talent but are still smart enough to work in the corporate world.

Purchasing/procurement is another field which does not attract the best and the brightest. These people will buy a turd as long as it seems "cheap" and can be mashed to meet the required specs.

Between those factors, that is how you end up with human resource management systems like Taleo and Workday. These systems then ask screening questions which automatically toss any application which doesn't exactly fit their requirements. Let me be clear. There is no "put no, but put expected on your resume to clarify." Your resume just never gets read.

You cannot negotiate with a computer. You cannot negotiate with a computer. With a human, even if they intended for you to answer no, you can chalk it up to a misunderstanding and perhaps "what your career advisor told you to do."

Let me put it in simple terms. Answering "no" is automatic defeat. You may as well throw away your application if you put no. Answering "yes" is a chance to fight on.

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    Problem is that the same logic can be applied to, well, any question on the form. Got a criminal record? Meh, will select No, and then explain it down the line, as selecting Yes will just get me rejected. Granted that this is a lesser severity lie, but a lie nonetheless, so be careful when entering a slippery slope. Or don't be surprised when then the company lies to you about other things, things they deemed as figurable later. – Tymoteusz Paul Feb 10 at 0:05
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    @TymoteuszPaul if your criminal record is getting sealed or expunged in the near future, you would be wise to select No. By the time the background check is done and you start work, the answer will be No. – StumpedMoneyHacker Feb 10 at 0:25
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    I'm not sure I understand the first line. The existence of a debate indicates that one of the answers is definitely right? Sounds counter-intuitive. – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Feb 10 at 16:38

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