I’ve been following LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner for a while, and I really admire his vision for the company.
Of course, a company is only as great as its employees. At the ASU GSV Summit,Weiner revealed the actions his company is takes to look for talent in non-traditional places. Speaking about the qualities LinkedIn is looking for in potential hires, which includes passion and fire, a great work ethic, perseverance, loyalty, and a growth mindset, Weiner said the following:
These are qualities that you don’t necessarily pick up from a degree. There are qualities…that have a tendency to be completely overlooked when people are sifting through résumés or LinkedIn profiles. And yet, increasingly, we find that these are the kinds of people that make the biggest difference within our organization.
Increasingly I hear this mantra: Skills, not degrees. It’s not skills at the exclusion of degrees. It’s just expanding our perspective to go beyond degrees.
Three words that can make all the difference in the hiring process:
Skills, not degrees.
Why Skills Trump Degrees
“We used to pride ourselves on recruiting from an incredibly short list of universities, and a lot of companies in the Valley did the same thing,” said Weiner. “We’re certainly not alone. We recently conducted a little bit of research leveraging LinkedIn profiles and looked at tech workers within the valley, and only 5 percent of them came from non-traditional backgrounds.”
But in recent years, a number of well-known companies have realized that an overwhelming amount of great talent remains hidden–and that a lot of smart, talented, and passionate people are spurning traditional higher education.
For example, Lazlo Bock, best-selling author and former head of HR at Google, explained in a 2013 interview with The New York Times why the proportion of Google employees without any college education had steadily increased through the years.
“After two or three years, your ability to perform…is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different,” said Bock. “You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently.”
So, how is LinkedIn following through on this philosophy?
At the conference, Wiener spoke about REACH, LinkedIn’s new internship program that’s paving the way for a new type of recruiting.
“This is trying to get away from this idea that everyone on the engineering team, everyone we recruit, has to have come from a specific school and has to have a specific kind of degree,” said Weiner. “Yes, [computer science] degrees from specific schools can lead to us finding incredible talent. But it’s not the exclusionary domain of incredible talent.”
“So, with this particular cohort, we’re finding that people with very basic coding skills but [who] have graduated from a coding boot camp…we’re looking for folks like that. We’re looking for folks with a growth mindset. We’re looking for people with the dedication, with the work ethic. We want to give them a shot. And what we’re finding is, these people are…incredibly talented, and they need a chance.”
Weiner goes on to tell the story of one of LinkedIn’s current apprentices, who was living in a homeless shelter just six months ago. The experience led him to build an app that facilitated the way the homeless find shelters.
“There’s just so much talent to be had if people are open to finding this talent in different places,” says Weiner.
So, where do you look for new hires?
Maybe you should take a page from LinkedIn’s playbook, and change your focus:
Skills, not degrees.
Or, as Adam Markowitz, founder of tech startup Portfolium, put it:
“Potential over pedigree. Talent, grit, and passion [are] everywhere–from Ivy Leagues to community colleges, dev boot camps, and everywhere in between.”
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A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.