Most business owners and hiring managers will tell you that attracting talent is easier said than done. But if your company is struggling to fill open positions, it could be that you're setting your standards too high.

According to a new report by Harvard Business School professor Joseph Fuller, employers are increasingly insisting that job candidates have better qualifications than those already employed in the same capacity. In fact, there are an estimated 6.2 million jobs out there for which candidates need a college degree, even though those same positions previously didn't require one.

Professionally dressed young woman shaking hands with man in dress shirt

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Of course, many workers forgo college because of the expense involved, and instead rely on their experience and skills to land employment. And for a long time, that approach worked out for employers and employees alike. But now that companies are setting higher hiring standards, both sides could come to suffer.

Are you making the hiring process needlessly difficult?

Though college can sometimes prepare candidates for certain roles, much of the time, new hires get good at what they do by learning on the job. And that's why it just might pay to ease up on the college requirement, especially when you have candidates coming in with pre-existing skills for the roles you're looking to fill. While there's certainly value in going to college, requiring prospective hires to have a degree limits your applicant pool, thereby making it more difficult to find the right candidates for the openings you have.

Insisting on a college degree could also end up costing you much more money. In the aforementioned study, most employers paid up to 30% more to hire college graduates instead of applicants without degrees. So unless there's a compelling reason to pay that premium, you might come out ahead financially by easing up on the college requirement and giving non-degree holders a chance -- especially if they're coming in with a certain level of skill, or if the job in question is one for which college wasn't always a prerequisite.

Now if your company has the budget to pay up for college grads, and you've been filling open positions with ease, then by all means, go ahead and insist that candidates come in with degrees. But if you've been having a hard time finding talent, it might pay to relax your standards just a bit and take a more open-minded approach to hiring.

Of course, this doesn't mean you should compromise as far as required skills go. Similarly, there's nothing wrong with demanding that candidates come in having already put in a specific amount of time in a similar role. For example, if you're looking to hire a manager or supervisor, demanding five years of experience in a comparable capacity is perfectly valid -- and also far more relevant than one's college graduate status.

In an ideal world, college would be free and everyone would go. But since that's not the case, it pays to take a step back and consider loosening your company's requirements on the college degree front. In doing so, you might unearth a world of talent -- and save your business some money in the process.

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