The New Diplomas

Have you ever hired someone whose degree came from an online university?

A question for clients and executive recruiters.  Have you ever hired a person whose degree was from an online “university?”

I’m talking about candidates for executive roles who have years of experience on their resumes, but who started their professional lives at an online university.

I’ll admit that among the first things I look at when I review a resume is the academic history.  I view it as a first test of a candidate’s capabilities.  The rigor of their early training.  A candidate who had to get into a top flight institution and then perform gets some credit in my book.  If they attended a more modest institution, they aren’t rejected, but I know I look at the rest of the resume differently.

But if their degree or degrees are from online institutions… well I probably look even more differently at the rest of their career.

In a column in the New York Times, David Brooks did a great job of parsing some of the key differences between traditional university and online alternatives and I wish my attitude was based on that level of analysis.  But I have to admit it isn’t.  It’s a view that online programs just aren’t the same as traditional programs and they don’t receive the same credit in the eyes of companies and recruiters.

I wonder if I’m right.

I honestly can’t think of a client that I have had over the last sixteen years who would have accepted someone whose only academic credentials were online.  I’ve had some who have accepted candidates with no college degree at all, but none who have accepted an online degree.

I wonder just how other professional recruiters view this situation. There are a growing number of people getting their degrees through these institutions and the disciplines being studied are growing as well.  But do these degrees hold up to traditional universities when it comes to evaluations by search professionals?  Should they?

I don’t have an answer. I’d like to hear yours.