I've visited the careers page of a large multinational tech company a couple of times, and I've noticed that some of their Software Development jobs only require a high school diploma in terms of education, and about 1-2 years of experience in other things, such as Java programming, UNIX experience, etc. Why is it that when someone with a Bachelor's Degree in CS applies, who have about 4-5 years of experience in the technical areas they require, get turned down? I'm not generally speaking here because I can't speak for the rest of the applicants, but I do know 2 people who I went to college with who have this amount of experience and who have been rejected by the company. I also know people who do work at the company with a Software Development position and don't have a degree in CS or as many years of experience. Any thoughts on this? I'd appreciate the feedback.

closed as off-topic by gnat, Kent A., David K, Masked Man, Jane S Aug 10 '15 at 22:34

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    Welcome to The Workplace. Unfortunately, as currently worded, this question will be closed because it is company-specific, and unless someone from IBM answers who has actual knowledge of the policies, any other answer will just be a guess. Please feel free to edit your question to make it more appropriate for this forum. – Kent A. Aug 10 '15 at 14:19
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    Rejected at what stage? If they interview terribly or can't complete a programming sample properly they could still be rejected. – Dustybin80 Aug 10 '15 at 14:19
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    IBM probably rejects hundreds of applicants for these positions. I doubt they have a CS degree bias but they realize there are many good developers without one. – user8365 Aug 10 '15 at 15:41
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    Nothing here is specific to the employer, IBM. Minimum requirements are just just that, minimum. Not everyone who meets (or even exceeds) the minimum requirements will be considered for interviews. They set their job requirements that way so that they don't "close the door" on outstanding people with non-traditional backgrounds. – teego1967 Aug 10 '15 at 15:48
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    The term "rejected" here seems a little too charged. It seems more like your friends applied and for whatever reason the company didn't move forward with them. I've also had recruiters/companies reach out to me via e-mail or telephone. If I don't reply does that mean I'm "rejecting" them?? – Brandin Aug 10 '15 at 20:35

Let me explain it like this. They have one opening and 350 applicants who meet the minimum requirement. Most of the people who meet the qualification will not be interviewed. You have to have something that makes you stand out from the stack of resumes.

When I first graduated from college, it was year when there were almost no entry level jobs available for economic reasons. I would get these terribly discouraging letters back saying, "Out of the 700 applications for this position, you were not one of the three we decide to interview." You may have to apply to hundreds of places to land a job. Even with experience.

What that taught me was that I always have to do something or get some experience that will make me stand out in a huge stack of resumes; it had certainly never occurred to me that I would be in competition with that many people. That principle has guided me ever since and now I rarely have trouble getting an interview because I have both strong skills and, more importantly, a strong history of significant accomplishments. But you have to start thinking this way - that you have to be a standout - in order to reach this stage.

For instance, reading a stack of resumes, I can generally sort them into:

  • totally unqualified (really I have seen people with no software dev experience apply for a senior developer, you would be amazed at what you see when you read a stack of resumes),
  • could be good but can't tell for sure from the resume (these are the ones who don't try to sell themselves),
  • seems to be steadily growing in skill level and responsibility, and
  • Wow.

    Clearly people in the last two categories get called for an interview more often than the "might be good" group. Usually people in that group only get called if I know someone who personally will vouch for them or if I don't have enough candidates in the last two groups.

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    I totally confirm the I have seen people with no software dev experience apply for a senior developer part, it's waaay more common than you think. It actually makes me curious to meet this person and ask them what the hell they were thinking... – Radu Murzea Aug 10 '15 at 21:12
  • @RaduMurzea No doubt they were thinking that they didn't want an entry-level job, had a high self-opinion, and felt that it couldn't hurt, possibly because of those two facts, possibly because if they got the slightest notice they would try to talk their way in. I haven't done it but I've thought all of those things. – Ryan Reich Aug 10 '15 at 21:34
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    The worst case of totally unqualified applicants I ever saw was when I worked in the IT department of a television network. People would apply for any job there, thinking it was going to be their foot in the door to a career on TV. Nope. – Carson63000 Aug 10 '15 at 23:21

There's lots of potential answers, but the most obvious one is "we opened this position with these minimum requirements, but we got lots of applicants who had much more than the minimum, so we took the top 20* of those for phone interviews and let the rest know we wouldn't be hiring them this time".

At my first company, my boss didn't have a degree at all, because he was hired when programmers were in such demand they hired people with any programming experience, even high school classes or personal projects. By the time I was hired, though, the programming boom had subsided, and there were lots of developers with degrees looking for jobs, and many fewer jobs available.

  • The thing about degrees vice not having one is that if all things are equal, the degreed person has an edge. However, when evaluating resumes, it is rare that all things are equal. Once you are past entry level, the degree has far less relevance than the experience and accomplishments. – HLGEM Aug 10 '15 at 20:07

Why get rejected if you meet the minimum requirements?

In almost all employment situations, Minimum Requirements aren't a ticket to a sure job. They are simply the least you must have to even be considered in the running.

Most often, many, many folks meet the minimum requirements and apply. It's up to the hiring manager to choose among the many to hire the best candidates - those who meet the minimum, but also have the potential to be great hires. You might well find several candidates who have the right background to meet the requirements, but are jerks to others. You might find an otherwise-qualified person who has absolutely no people skills. You might find someone who meets the minimum requirements, but has never been able to keep a job for more than 9 months at a time. You might find a candidate who has all the minimum requirements, but will demand a higher salary.

The requirements are the minimum, they are almost never the complete picture of what you want in an employee.

If you were an investor in IBM, would you want them to hire the first person who happened to apply and met the minimum requirements? Or would you want them to hire the best candidate among all the applicants? I know where I'd want to place my investment dollars.

When you prepare to purchase a new car, you likely either have a written list of requirements or one in your head. Most likely you don't purchase the fist car that ticks all the boxes, instead you find several, and then weigh other factors (like negotiated price, etc) before ultimately making your decision. Doing so in a hiring situation only makes sense.

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    Sometimes minimum requirements aren't even "the least you need" to be considered, as candidates may be interviewed who don't meet those requirements. They can also be "a field that HR included on the form the hiring manager had to fill out to get the job listed." – Air Aug 10 '15 at 16:37

If they are looking for someone with just a high school diploma with 1-2 years experience and you are being rejected despite having 4-5 years & a degree, then it's quite possible that they want a junior employee for particular reasons, most likely that they will be cheap and easy and do simple but time-consuming work that otherwise wastes the time of the more senior employees.

If you agree to work for the salary of a junior, then they may just think that you are using the job to keep you going until you get a "real" job or get fed up of doing menial tasks you consider beneath you and leave.


This is an incredibly open question. All of the above answers are good, but to be even more general about it, the first person looking at the resume (be they the hiring manager, an HR rep, or someone else) could have any number of reasons for passing or picking up a resume. Did they need to pare it down to x number before submitting and starting to call? Maybe your friends resumes were x + 1 in line. If there are a ton of resumes for a job, they may not all get looked at once there are enough candidates.

Sometimes it comes down to where someone did or didn't go to college (or even high school). Some hiring managers may pass on a resume with a rural high school graduate versus a suburban high school graduate. Right or wrong, these types of on-a-whim decisions happen every day at companies from mom n' pop shops to Fortune 100 megacorporations.

It can simply be the format of your resume (is it too cluttered, did you add pictures, is it too long, too short, et cetera). I had a resume come across my desk once that was written in Comic Sans - I didn't even give it another glance.


Note: Although I work for IBM, this is personal opinion.

There are many factors that can impact your questions.

  1. The main thing to realize is that IBM is huge! We have a large number of roles across many various products/services. Some jobs would be well below a Bachelor's qualification. It's possible there may be another role you would be better suited for. I'd recommend to research jobs at the career website.

  2. The department advertising the job has a fixed salary/band for the role. It is quite possible that with your skill set, they would need to adjust your salary to justify hiring you. If not, you would out rank your peers, and/or more likely to move to a better job outside of the time they expect an employee to move/grow.

  3. The other factor can also be interpersonal skills. Some roles require having to deal with customers, even if you are not customer facing. Some teams while not customer facing also have a certain culture / work ethics that you may not fit in with (without realizing it).

  4. It's possible that even with your excellent skills, you can still mess up the interview. I would recommend to research how to do an exceptional interview, and practice.

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