HR departments more willing to recognize alternative credentials; most bots don’t

With rising tuition costs and record student loan debt, workers are increasingly turning to alternative credentials, such as certifications, badging and apprenticeships. And an overwhelming share of HR professionals now consider them on equal footing to college degrees or close to it.

They can also quickly advance a career, especially in health care and IT.



“Individuals who have been displaced or are opting to choose an alternate career path but don’t necessarily have the opportunity or perhaps the money to obtain a four-year degree or even a two-year degree, we found that more individuals are able to upscale at a rapid pace if they’re pursuing these industry certifications or professional certifications in the field in which they are interested and aligned,” said Wendi Safstrom, president of the Society for Human Resource Management.

Alternative credentials are popular with workers. Nearly three-quarters agree they are an affordable way to gain the skills or experience they need to enter a new job. And three-quarters also believe they would increase their chances of being hired for a job.

Alternative credentials can also pay off better.

“The shorter-term, non-degreed credentials actually lead to increases in earnings of between $2,000 and $6,500 a year, while costing obviously a fraction of the money and time that a college degree has on average,” Safstrom said.

Employers continue to report difficulty in finding qualified talent to fill the openings they have. More acceptance of alternative credentials cannot only broaden available candidates, but also lead to more diversified candidates.

While 90% of HR professionals say people with alternative credentials bring value to the workplace, many may never even see applications from those candidates.

Automated job application screening and tracking systems don’t always recognize alternative credentials and advance those applications to the next stage.

“Nearly half of HR professionals say their organization uses these automatic pre-screening tools to review job applicant resumes but only a third of them say their applicant tracking systems recognize alternative credentials,” Safstrom said.

The Society for Human Resource Management has published a new report encouraging more wide acceptance of alternative credentials entitled Making Alternative Credentials Work.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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