When Torn Between Two Candidates, Does Degree or Experience Matter More?

In many cases, your company’s final hiring decision relies on choosing between two excellent programming candidates. Perhaps one boasts an exceptional educational background, with an advanced degree, published papers, and a sterling reputation. However, the other candidate lacks a college degree, but their résumé reveals relevant and tangible software development experience.  

This difficult scenario requires some soul-searching from your hiring manager to make the right choice. Of course, cultural fit matters greatly when considering who to hire. Additionally, your company might need to close a skills gap, with only one candidate having the necessary experience. So let’s analyze the best strategy for approaching this critical decision between two top candidates.


Education or Technical Experience?

While a strong educational background matters when analyzing software development professionals, no substitute exists for tangible experience. In fact, many talented programmers never bothered to earn a college degree. Instead, they eat and breathe software development. In fact, some actually contribute to open source projects while still in high school.

The moral of the story remains simple. When vetting programming candidates, always look for tangible experience with various software development projects. Peruse their GitHub repository if they provide it on their résumé. Use a technical interview to vet their skills when under pressure. Also, speak with their references for additional insights into their programming chops and personality.

Ultimately, if a developer has great verifiable programming chops they definitely deserve consideration even without a degree. On the other hand, remain cautious with someone with an advanced degree but little real-world software development experience. In this scenario, experience definitely needs to rank higher than education.


Soft Skills and Cultural Fit are Also Critical 


Of course, don’t short shrift other attributes of a software developer beyond their experience or education level. Soft skills definitely matter in the modern business world. Strong verbal and written communication skills help a programmer collaborate and interact with coworkers and business stakeholders. Leadership ability reveals someone who mentors younger developers while also possessing management potential.

Additionally, cultural fit also greatly matters. In fact, feeling comfortable within a company culture remains a critical factor in employee retention over time. In a competitive market for software engineering talent, this remains vital. After all, losing an employee simply wastes all the resources spent recruiting, hiring, and training them.

In the end, look for experienced, well-rounded software developers that make a great fit for your team.


If your company needs an influx of programming talent, connect with Developers.Net. As one of the top nearshore staffing agencies in the country, we provide exceptional candidates to help your organization thrive. Schedule a meeting with us as soon as possible.

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