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The Truth Can Set You Free (From Employment)


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We respect your hustle.

Our society puts tremendous weight on things that don't really say much, which means many companies don't actually hire the employees they say they want. You won't be considered for most jobs without a degree and some work experience, but what if your lack of opportunities and dedication to other, more important responsibilities, prevented that? In these cases, the best option is to simply lie on your application, and nobody prefers that option. Outdated job requirements prevent countless honest, hardworking people from even getting a chance at meaningful work. That's bad for people, companies, and society as a whole. Let's put an end to it.

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Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover

The vast majority of companies around the world use similar hiring practices. Ask for a resume, look at job history and skills, and decide if you're good enough for the job based on some criteria. The problem is that that these processes only look at surface-level facts about a person's history that tell you nothing about them as a person or as a worker.

Extended gaps between jobs, lacking a certain level of education, and not having enough listed skills are just a handful of the many, many criteria that determine if you are worthy of a job. Unfortunately, these measures often mean very little and can prevent you from even getting to an in-person interview where you can explain and justify all of them.

Your gaps might be because you quit working to take care of your sick family members. Your lack of education could be because you started working early to help pay bills or simply didn't have the privilege of higher education. Your lack of skills might be from a boss who refused to let you learn and grow despite your every desire to.

Many of the all-too-common interview questions and resume requirements we see give zero opportunity to showcase who you are and what you can do for them. So what do we do about it? First, is to realize that everyone has a story worth telling.

My Truth

I used to work at a Fortune 100 company that gave me all the opportunities I have today. It served as a shining star on my resume that made everyone think I was incredible. It gave me interviews, jobs, and experiences which I never would have received otherwise. I am able to do what I do now because I worked there. Now, I coach CEO's and heads of HR on how to make organization-wide changes.

Naturally, I am often asked about my job history and education that led me to where I am so that aspiring new workers can set themselves on the right path. My secret?

I lied.

I never graduated high school and I don't have a GED. I am, at the age of 33, still one-half math credit away from graduation. That's it. Half of a credit in one subject. Everyone that finds out says, "Why don't you just go finish it?!" Simply because I don't need to anymore.

See, since I was so close to graduating, I simply checked the box that said I graduated on every resume. No company I've ever applied to has ever checked and it has never stopped me from getting a job. Now, after having worked in different companies for years and having a plethora of experience under my belt, that experience is what recruiters look at, which speaks for itself.

I have no incentive to get my diploma. It won't add any value in my career. The truth is ...

Some Things Just Don't Matter

I am not saying education doesn't matter. It absolutely does. I wouldn't be where I am if I were not educated. However, there are a lot of reasons why certain common requirements to get any job - whether it's a high school diploma, a course on diversity training, or proof of knowing a programming language - don't always matter to the degree we think they do.

  1. Not all certifications are created equal. A diploma from the worst school district in the country is far more impressive than one from the best school district. It means that person beat the odds and graduated when they were statistically unlikely to. A certification that requires a lot of time, dedication, and studying to acquire might mean more than a virtually identical certification which can be taken for free over a weekend.

  2. Certification's don't always mean what we think they mean. You can get many certifications by taking the test over and over and over until you simply memorize the right answers without actually learning anything. You can graduate from school by cheating and paying people to do your work for you. Again, you can have that diploma without learning a thing.

  3. Certifications require privilege. This is not to say that everyone with a certification is inherently privileged, but some people don't have opportunities to achieve even those things which society deems easy. A child who has to take care of his family may have to drop out of school to do so. Someone struggling to pay bills might not have the funds to spare on an online course they want to take. Some people struggle to learn from watching videos, but excel with on-the-job training.

  4. If you don't check, you probably don't care. If you ask for a requirement, it should be because that thing is required to do the job. If your system automatically denies people who say they do have a certain certification and automatically approves people who say they don't, is it really accomplishing anything? Everyone who lies automatically gets through and nobody ever asks about it. Everyone who is honest and is denied never even has an opportunity. All of this for something that nobody checks or questions. If that is how it works, is it really so important?

What this all boils down to is that we can't really know what somebody knows without more context. Unfortunately, someone can't provide that context unless they get an interview, but they are unlikely to get an interview based solely on what is listed on their resume.

Pointless Requirements Exclude Good Talent

I know an incredibly talented programmer who is a genius not only at the code he writes, but also his ability to teach others in a simple and understandable way. He never went to school for coding and has no certifications of any kind. He just taught himself over several years.

Thankfully, many programming jobs don't just say, "You didn't attend MIT or complete several Python courses on Udemy, so we're not interested." Instead, they require a coding interview to see if candidates know their stuff. So on his resume, he can claim he knows things, then he can prove it when they ask him to.

Sadly, most hiring processes don't work that way. Don't have a diploma? Not interested. Haven't had a particular title for a specific number of years? Not interested. Didn't go to an Ivy League school? Not interested.

These surface-level requirements prevent qualified candidates from even having the chance at the job. Everyone knows how this works, so everyone who has the knowledge and passion to do the job, but doesn't have the paperwork to subjectively prove it, has two options.

  1. Don't apply. This happens constantly. You look at the job description and know you can definitely do the job. Then you look at the "basic requirements" and realize you don't technically meet them. Knowing you'll be denied immediately for a job you have years of experience in, you give up and move on, hoping to find someone willing to see you for the skilled worker you are.

  2. Lie. You don't have a diploma, but you are pretty sure they don't actually check, so you say you do. You don't have experience in Microsoft Word, but you know you will educate yourself immediately if you get the job, so you say you do. You have gaps in your career, but know you'll be judged for them, so you fudge the numbers.

Which of these options makes someone more likely to get the job? The only thing these requirements are doing is ensuring the most honest people don't apply for the job. How many companies do exactly this while having "WE VALUE HONESTY!" plastered on every wall in the office?

Time and time again, those who want to work but don't have the opportunity are encouraged to lie if they want any shot at getting a job they are absolutely capable of doing. Not only does that prevent the most honest people from even applying, it causes those who do lie just so that they have the chance to prove they can do it to worry every day if they will get fired from a job they are excelling at.

Times Are Changing

My intentions are not to advocate for lying. Rather, it is to point out why these lies might happen and that it doesn't automatically mean an applicant is a bad person. Our society has created these barriers that not everyone has the chance to work through in the way we might righteously deem as "correct". Thankfully, There are currently two drastic types of change happening.

First is that technology has enabled universal access to all the world's knowledge and opened up countless more avenues to connect. Higher education is no longer a necessary step for many people to gain the skills and knowledge they want. Instead of spending thousands of dollars to attend a university and taking a variety of classes, you can educate yourself every hour of the day with free videos and courses from a plethora of different sources. The internet has made education accessible to everyone and made it possible for any human to potentially have a conversation with the most brilliant minds in any field.

Second is the growing knowledge of organizations that people have more to offer than a resume might suggest. Every day we see more stories of companies who are relying on uptraining rather than hiring externally, who are giving employees opportunities to grow instead of demanding a certain certification. The reality that people want to become better versions of themselves and help their companies accomplish more things is becoming more widely known and accepted.

These two things together are evidence that things are getting better, but we still have a long way to go. Every human, regardless of what their resume says, can and will provide more value than you ever thought possible if they are given the opportunity and a supportive environment. Let's move toward the future where anyone can apply to any job with eager confidence.


This is normally where the conclusion would be.

Replacing tradition with efficiency is kind of our thing.

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