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My employer has a software developer opening for which a friend of mine would be a great candidate; in fact, she's the best, most knowledgeable programmer I know (I'm a developer myself). Additionally, she is a very helpful person, which would fit in well with our rather inexperienced team.

When I submitted her resume, my supervisor noted that my friend had left college after only two years. (She started a company with some other people.) My boss dismissed my friend out of hand with the comment "We don't hire people who don't have a degree." I tried to tell my boss about my friend's skills and that she has told me she wants to complete her degree, but he wouldn't re-consider.

How might I get him to change his mind and consider her for this job?

Additional info: My current supervisor made the comment that our clients want our employees to have degrees. However, my supervisor before this one was a college dropout herself, so obviously that's not a rule written into company policy.

  • Operative word, of course being "might". The boss is the one who gets to make the decision, and it doesn't have to be completely rational. – keshlam Jun 30 '15 at 19:39
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    Be careful. It can be rather irritating when someone persists too much after a discussion is over, especially if that person is your subordinate. – zfrisch Jun 30 '15 at 19:44
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    But he did not declare her as unqualified. He said "We don't hire people who don't have a degree." That may just be a policy he has no control over. If he won't even take the interview then probably not a battle to take on. – paparazzo Jun 30 '15 at 20:13
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    Funnily enough, just today there was a news article about how programmers can be looking for jobs in Switzerland when there are thousands of open positions (in German). Turns out that, e.g., many IT companies have promised their customers in their service agreements that support personnel and coders will have a degree. This would give rise to a company policy the boss would have zero control over. – Stephan Kolassa Jun 30 '15 at 21:00
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    Who is "we" in We don't hire people who don't have a degree. Is it very different if it is a personal policy of your boss or a company wide policy. – SJuan76 Jun 30 '15 at 21:37
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Why you no want no degree?

The first step is to understand why your boss won't accept someone without a degree.

Some people just assume "4 year degree == good developer" (which is obviously not the case). Or assume you need a degree to be competent (which is also not the case). Or some companies are incredibly rigid in their processes.

Once you understand why, you will be able to identify the perceived weaknesses that this causes. Does your boss think they are bad at algorithms? Have some code samples demonstrating this, etc (which is good regardless). Maybe your boss assumes she won't be professional. There will be hidden assumptions based on the reasons your boss thinks this.

Help put a face to the name

Another approach if there are resistance would be mutual activities. It's pretty easy generally to throw out a "stat" or "potential" person but get them to meet somehow. If your friend is qualified / competent / intelligent this is normally pretty obvious when interacting with people. Suggest an informal lunch/etc.

Putting a "face to the name" makes it a ton easier to overcome biases.

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First you must evaluate your motive. While we would all like to work with people we know outside the office, that obviously isn't always the case. As such, your boss is likely going to see you as biased, especially if they know the applicant is your friend.

If your motive is to genuinely get your boss to reconsider, don't go about it directly. Instead, ask him what it is about his preference for developers with degrees over those without degrees, and then you can even pose a question to him like "You believe that is better in spite of companies like (name a noteworthy company who is not degree prejudiced such as yelp etc.) who routinely hire developers with experience over degrees?". Provide imperical evidence. At the end of the day, bosses are human too and while some may not want to admit the error in their ways, a gentle respectful eye opening dialogue can be just the thing to get them to reconsider. Just don't be overly direct or come off as biased and trying to get your friend a job because they are your friend.

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Your boss is a bigot. It's just that simple. He cannot conceive that anyone who doesn't have an arbitrary attribute, in this case a diploma, can be acceptable.

I've fought this mentality many times. My degree is not in software engineering, but in audio engineering, and although I've been writing and architecting software for 15 years, now, I still can't get through the front door on some opportunities.

For those that look at skills rather than attributes, I've provided them with what I consider very good work, and they have been happy with it.

It's just life.

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    There are plenty of companies which for whatever reason don't let people hire without a degree. A boss working for that sort of company isn't automatically a bigot, he might just be constrained by corporate policies. – enderland Jun 30 '15 at 19:57
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    Apparently anything could be bigotous now-a-days.. – easymoden00b Jun 30 '15 at 20:37
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    Also, in the US, if you're bidding on a government contract, particularly if it's a level of effort contract, the credentials of your staff are very important to success. In an ideal world, we would all be judged on our individual merits, but there are real business considerations when it comes to credentials. – ColleenV Jul 1 '15 at 20:47

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