Live: Is it time to ditch degrees from the essential criteria of marketing jobs?

Lisa Eaton, managing director of Unwritten Group and Fabric, explores why employers should consider candidates who have taken a different path to marketing

I recently sat down to write three advertisements for vacancies at my marketing agency. There were several things I wanted to see in candidates; relevant experience, energy and ambition, to name a few. One thing that wasn’t on the list was a degree.

In my experience of hiring marketers, the people who have made the biggest impact, and have also been the most successful in the appointed role, have been those who are truly ambitious and have demonstrated real effort in getting themselves to their current position. I see that ambition come through in many ways, whether it’s continuous learning, volunteering or blog writing. A degree alone has never been a clear indicator that someone is going to be a great hire.

Marketing, being influenced by unpredictable factors such as humans, culture and tech, changes at a pace that university curriculums can’t always keep up with. When degrees don’t evolve at the same rate as industry practice, why do so many job specs list a degree as essential?

Of course, marketing is a competitive industry, and every business leader wants the best people on their team, so a degree might seem like an obvious way to set the bar. But in demanding a degree, employers are excluding a huge group of talented marketers who could be the key to boosting their organisation.

The traditional job specs that demand marketing qualifications are often written by non-marketers who are hiring for the department without a full understanding of the skills required. Businesses need to adapt their recruitment methods and needs in line with the market and industry trends, to ensure they have the best access to talent.

Junior marketers often go out of their way to get practical experience through internships and freelancing, demonstrating dedication to their chosen field. This practical experience and work ethic should be invaluable to companies who want ambitious marketers on their team.

These digital natives are also excellent at using online resources to teach themselves the most up to date tactics and best practices. Often, this is the best way to learn marketing, as the courses are written by active practitioners who are seeing marketing evolve every day.

Exclusively hiring graduates also creates an unequal playing field. Many people are choosing not to go to university because of the soaring tuition and housing fees. By hiring from a wider talent pool, businesses can build a diverse team with a range of experiences.

If businesses revaluate how marketing recruitment is approached, they will enjoy better success from having a more agile and modern skillset at their disposal.

This is not to say that marketing education is irrelevant. There are dozens of high-quality, modern courses that allow professionals to upskill themselves without spending thousands of pounds and years out of the working market. Engaging in shorter courses from different providers gives people a wider view of the industry and how they can approach marketing within their organisations.

Whatever the professional’s personal choice, they should never be excluded from a role they would excel in because they took at different path to get there. It’s time to recruit more flexibly based on values and behaviours, not academic results or accolades.

Lisa Eaton
Managing director
Unwritten Group