A New Hiring Manifesto: Your Fancy Credentials Are Worthless

Justin.tv founder Justin Kan doesn't care if you went to Harvard. Here's why he thinks state-school grads (or even dropouts) are underrated and undervalued.

American companies are obsessed with hiring Harvard grads and Wharton MBAs. This is true of the tech industry, even extending into startups, driving entry-level top school CS bachelor’s degree grad salaries into the six figures in the Bay Area. Everyone agrees that better talent leads to better outcomes. But are the most highly academically-credentialed among us the most talented?

Certainly a higher percentage of graduates from the best schools are very talented, but today great people from other backgrounds are relatively under-valued by comparison to Ivy grads. For someone in charge of recruiting, it’s a lazy heuristic to "only hire from top schools"; one that will put you in fierce competition with pretty much every well-capitalized competitor out there.

Steve Jobs was a Reed College drop-out. Some of the best hires we’ve ever made had terrible paper credentials. Ammon, a brilliant engineer who ran Justin.tv’s video system and went on to co-found the Socialcam spin-off, came from a "terrible school" by his own admission. Later, when Socialcam grew to over 100m users, he and one other technical founder scaled the infrastructure alone. Jacob, our designer and first hire at Justin.tv, now Twitch’s Director of Product, hadn’t finished college in New Mexico and had almost no web design experience. He turned out to be one of the most versatile designers I’ve worked with, over the past seven years he’s worked on visual design, UX and front-end implementation, often playing a role that would have been three jobs at another company.

Speaking as a graduate of one, top schools teach you credentialing and ladder climbing. If you’re lucky, you might learn how to create a financial model or craft a solid argument. They don’t make you a great UX designer or programmer. Your passion for learning and gaining more and more experience are what make you great. The nights you stayed up until 5am coding make you great. Your love of building things makes you great.

I want to hire hungry creative kids that want to step up. The best programmers from shitty schools and wannabe designers who dropped out of film school. Network engineers who started off as college dropouts but figured it out from years of on-the-job experience learning to be the best. Dev Bootcamp grads without any experience but who have spent every day and night the last 6 months programming.

I don’t give a shit where you went to college as long as you’re talented.

Related: Experienced Hires Will Save You From Yourself

Justin Kan is the founder and president of Justin.tv.

Reprinted with permission from iamexec.com

[Image: Flickr user Ruth Flickr]

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  • onfire creative

    I started my career in my teens at one of the largest consumer companies in the world. When I decided to move on; agency interviews consisted of let’s see your ideas and the quality of your presentations.

    I decided to start a brand communications firm that grew to five offices over twenty years. All this time not one person asked me where I went to college.

    I sold the company a few years ago and recently started looking for a creative position. Even though my creative is as good as ever and my strategy and medium understanding is relevant, web code and development is not part of my tool kit.

    I guess what I am trying to get at is a piece of paper and a string of code has pushed creative to the bottom of the list. Recruiters are apologizing for the imbalance and the nonsense of it.