Brain power

Research shows how HR systems struggle to appreciate non-degree credentials

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

I’ve written numerous times about the growth in skills-based recruitment, but new research1 from Northeastern shows how difficult it can be for HR and talent acquisition systems to recognize non-degree credentials that are included on resumes to prove one’s skills.

Instead, the majority of hiring systems continue to be oriented towards conventional educational credentials, such as bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as unorganized data like PDF attachments.

Measuring up

In partnership with the 1EdTEch Foundation, a survey of 750 human resources leaders was conducted by researchers to gain insight into the utilization of digital non-degree credentials in the hiring process.

According to the 2021 survey, while hiring managers expressed interest in the increasing adoption of digital credentials and skill-based hiring practices, the lack of technical integration between HR systems posed a significant obstacle.

Approximately 50% of respondents acknowledged that data-rich learning and achievement records would pose a challenge to their current systems and processes. In contrast, the other half reported that their systems were well-equipped to incorporate digital credentials.

A growing market

Despite educational institutions and professional associations issuing millions of digital non-degree credentials, there appears to be a considerable disconnect between what job applicants provide and what employers utilize to make hiring decisions.

“You have this huge trend, but you don’t have other systems keeping pace,” the researchers explain. “We talk a lot about the potential of digital credentials, but for that to be realized, these other systems must work in concert.”

The emergence of intermediaries like LinkedIn, Indeed, and similar platforms has introduced a third party into the equation, placing themselves between job seekers and employers. Consequently, as applicants’ credentials traverse these websites, they often get reduced to the most basic qualifications, such as bachelor’s or master’s degrees.

Wasted effort

Many job seekers invest time and effort into adding additional information or data to their applications, only to find that these details never reach the employers for review.

The advent of online credentials began in the early 2010s when platforms like Coursera and edX collaborated with certain colleges to offer affordable online certificates. Simultaneously, degree-granting institutions, particularly community colleges, expanded their non-credit certificate programs, including fast-paced boot camp initiatives.

The report emphasizes that the primary concern lies in the inadequacy of hiring systems to accommodate and acknowledge these diverse credentials, rendering them largely incompatible.

Non-traditional treatment

The objective of the analysis carried out throughout 2022 and early 2023 is to delve into the treatment of non-traditional educational credentials by current human resources technologies. The research encompassed a representative selection of software providers, along with interviews and demonstrations.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the United States has witnessed a substantial proliferation in the number of available education and professional credentials.

As per the report, the abundance of unique credentials exceeds one million, among which approximately 660,000 originate from non-academic sources.

“How does that get mapped into some consistent structure on the employer side?” the researchers conclude.

Article source: Research Shows How HR Systems Struggle To Appreciate Non-Degree Credentials.

Header image source: Adapted from Tumisu on Pixabay and Clker-Free-Vector-Images on Pixabay.


  1. Gallagher, S., Leuba, M., Houston, C., & Trieckel, E. (2023). Digital Credentials and Talent Acquisition Tech: Closing the Data Gap Between Learning and Hiring. Boston: Northeastern University Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy.
Rate this post

Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

Related Articles

Back to top button