It’s something every job applicant hears: You have just seconds to make a good impression. And if yours is missing a four-year college degree, that first impression may already be formed before you walk into the interview–and it will likely be working against you.
Even for “middle skills” jobs in food service or retail, which traditionally were often held by workers with high school degrees or less, employers are raising the stakes. Nearly one-third of employers have increased their educational requirements in the past five years, according to CareerBuilder, with 37% of companies saying they now look for candidates with a college degree to fill positions that didn’t previously require that qualification.
A new public service announcement campaign from the Ad Council shows, in no uncertain terms, the deep flaws in this trend. Since 2014, the Ad Council has partnered with the nonprofit Grads of Life on its first business-to-business campaign to encourage companies to create employment pathways for the country’s nearly 6 million “opportunity youth”–young people without four-year degrees who are currently out of work and out of school, says Grads of Life principal Elyse Rosenblum.
The collaboration’s newest round of PSAs, called 7-Second Resumes, captures the skills that opportunity youth bring to employers–skills that in many cases, a four-year degree may not necessarily confer. The title of the new campaign derives from the fact that HR managers tend to glance at a resume for just seven seconds; if they don’t see a four-year degree on a resume, they tend to toss it. But young applicants in the campaign describe working double shifts while raising their younger siblings, and juggling three jobs while living in a shelter. They are resilient, dedicated, driven–all qualities that employers value.
“We created the campaign because we saw that there were a handful of companies–the Gap, for instance–that were bringing opportunity youth into their talent pipeline, but it was still pretty rare,” Rosenblum says. Grads of Life works with companies on a case-by-case basis to encourage them to widen the talent pool from which they hire, “but we realized there was an opportunity here to really scale this message,” Rosenblum adds.
Ultimately, Grads of Life and the Ad Council want to show companies that they should be hiring opportunity youth not out of a sense of charitable obligation, “but because it’s good for their bottom line,” Rosenblum says. The Gap’s This Way Ahead program, for example, which brings trains and employs young people without a college degree, has found that those workers tend to stay at the company for twice as long as employees with a degree. As companies struggle with talent acquisition and especially retention, Rosenblum is hopeful that the new 7 Second Resumes PSA will encourage employers to look to opportunity youth as a viable part of the solution.