How to overcome not having the required diploma when looking for a job


Dear Sam: I am 49 years old and for 7 years I have been the senior factory manager of a small food processing plant. I was recently laid off and conducted an unsuccessful job search. I think there are two important issues in my quest: (1) I’m almost 50 years old, and (2) I don’t own that coveted trophy called “diploma”. Don’t take it the wrong way – I’m not criticizing those with degrees – but it frustrates me that so many employers are demanding it with positions I know I would qualify for otherwise.

Am I wasting my time sending a CV when the job posting defines a degree as a requirement? I have 60 college credit hours, but I don’t know how to rate it. – Jim

Dear Jim: There are several strategies you can use to minimize the impact of not having the required degree for a particular opportunity.

Never mention it: The worst thing you can do is explain on your resume or cover letter that you don’t have a degree. It’s possible that if you present a strong enough image of your past, a hiring manager will qualify you for an interview before even realizing that you haven’t graduated. I always tell my clients to avoid mentioning potentially disqualifying factors, whenever possible, and not having a degree when required would fall into this category.

Define unique skills and strengths: You have unique background and skills based on your vast experience. Now your challenge is to sell that to the hiring manager. Review your background and identify what sets you apart from applicants with a degree but perhaps less experience. It is really of crucial importance. If you are called in for an interview and you are competing with graduates, you will need to sell yourself by explaining how you are more qualified for the position despite the lack of the required diplomas.

Emphasize professional development: When you don’t have a degree, you need to highlight your related training and education. Whether it’s employer-sponsored or self-initiated training programs, include them in your resume to show continuing professional development.

Highlight your training: You’ve completed two years of college education, which is probably worth noting. If you do, your education section will appear as such:

State university

Completed 60 hours towards a Bachelor of Science degree

You can also omit the education section altogether – there is no “rule” that an applicant must have an education section on their resume – if you feel that this does not add value to your application. I often omit the education section if I think the lack of a degree, or the minimum number of credit hours completed, will hurt the overall picture.

Finally, in response to your question of whether to apply for these positions when you don’t have the required degree, I would answer YES every time! Exceptionally, few candidates will be perfectly qualified; where you do not have a degree, another candidate may lack particular experience. Sell ​​what you have and have confidence in your presentation. I often tell clients that a degree is a “tick the box” requirement; a candidate with a diploma is equal to another with the same. Experience is really what makes a candidate unique and what “qualifies” us for opportunities. I would risk guessing that it’s not just your degree that is holding you back in your research; rearrange your resume to make sure it truly reflects your worth, and I’m sure your job search will be more successful with or without a degree. All my wishes!

Samantha Nolan is an advanced personal brand strategist and career expert, Founder and CEO of Nolan Branding. Do you have a CV, career, or job search question for Dear Sam? Join Samantha at [email protected]. For more information on Nolan Branding services, visit or call 888-9-MY-BRAND or 614-570-3442.

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