I’ve been doing the same job for almost four years now. I’m not the type of person that generally is complacent in any position. Even if I like a job, I’ll still browse jobs ads. Why? Because as long as other opportunities exist I’m going to be on the look-out. That being said I was browsing a popular tech recruiting site and found a job I thought that I would be good at. Even if I wasn’t hired I thought for sure I could get an interview.

The position was for a “Support Engineer” at a local company that was left nameless (because that’s how recruiters roll). I took at look at the qualifications:

  • Product Support Engineer with 1+ years of experience [check]
  • Solid understanding of web technologies [check]
  • Working knowledge of HTML5 and CSS3 [check]
  • Experience with Objective-C [need work here]
  • Computer Science degree or similar [check]

Based on the requirements I meet 4 out of 5 of the important criteria. I clicked ‘Apply’, spent about 15 minutes filling out the required questionnaire, and then sat back an waited. A few days later I get a response.

We appreciate your application and the time you took to review the job description and apply. Unfortunately, your background isn’t exactly what our client is looking for at this time.

I’ve applied for at least ten position via this website and I’m used to getting canned responses like this, but this time I really didn’t understand why. So I emailed the recruiter and asked why. The response I got:

The client is looking for someone with a bachelors degree and you only have an associates degree.

I understand the importance of a degree, but I applied for a position requiring 1 year of support experience and that didn’t even list that a B.S. was a requirement. Knowing that this is the reason I was not even invited to a phone call with the recruiter caused mixed emotions. First I was upset, but then I was relieved that they were basing the decision on something as arbitrary as two years of schooling when I have over eight years of experience in this field. It was kind of a relief that it wasn’t that the recruiter thought my past history wasn’t enough to do the job. It was that he thought my education wasn’t enough to do the job and he is wrong.

Let me explain why I think passing me up as a candidate was a mistake.

  1. I’ve been employed without a single break since I was 15. This includes working full time while I went to my 2 year tech school. Actually the reason I went to a 2 year school is because I needed to be able to fit in a full time job. If anything this shows that I am a dedicated worker.
  2. I started my first job at 15 bagging groceries. I worked my way up through every single job that store had to offer until finally I informed them I was going to quit. I had just finished my degree and was off to start a technical career. The regional director was upset because he knew what kind of employee I was. He tried to get me into the management training program but I respectfully declined. His last attempt to keep me was going to the CEO and telling him that they needed to move me to a corporate IT job because they didn’t want to lose me. I worked my first corporate IT support job for almost two years. I supported 17 different location with a team of 5 people.
  3. I left that job to take a support role for FedEx. For over 3 years I was responsible for making sure your packages ended up at your door. I was in charge of several mission critical applications 24 hours a day. This was one of the most stressful positions I have ever worked. If you know anything about logistics and shipping, this time of year is hell. I gained a ton of experience debugging all different types of applications and databases. This is a perfect example of 3 quality years in a support role.
  4. I left FedEx to join a search startup, Vivisimo, as a consultant. I spent every single day working directly with customers on projects. A typical day has me configuring and customizing software, finding and filing bugs, working with our developers to get a solution, and/or creating a work around if the customer needs things to work immediately. I’d say this is another 3 years of customer support experience.
  5. Our startup gets acquired by IBM. Now I’m a consultant on IBM’s Big Data team. I’m basically still doing the job I was before the acquisition but this is even more experience with one of the biggest tech firms in the world. Add another year to the tally.
  6. On top of all of that I ran my own marketing company, by myself, while working other jobs. At one point I was bringing in more money per month than these positions offer per year.

I have about 9 years of experience in customer facing support roles. To be told that I wouldn’t be considered based on my education is an insult. If you’re a recruiter that would consider a fresh college graduate with a 4 year degree for this position, over someone who has about 9 years of proven experience, then you are not a very good recruiter.

In the end the company is the big loser. I’m not sure if it’s a company policy or just the recruiter’s personal preferences. It doesn’t matter. You just lost out on a quality candidate. If your company really puts two years of school over all those years of experience than I probably don’t want to work for you anyway.