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At some point during your job search, you may have to justify why you believe you're qualified for a position if you don't have a degree. The key is to emphasize your strengths, not your weaknesses. Let your application materials and interview answers convince the recruiter or hiring manager that you're the best candidate for the job. You needn't be immodest about your accomplishments, but certainly be confident that you can perform the job, even without a degree.
Study the Job Posting
Ensure you clearly understand the job's requirements and expectations and that you're confident you can perform the essential functions. Many employers distinguish between required and preferred qualifications. If a college degree is a preferred qualification, you may have a better chance of success if you have work experience but not the degree. On the other hand, if the job posting indicates that a college degree is a required qualification, you'll have to work a little harder to get your resume noticed.
Spiff Up Your Resume
Update your resume with an emphasis on your work experience. Arrange your resume so that your professional background appears before the education section. Write succinct, yet descriptive summaries about your previous work. Showcase remarkable achievements or accomplishments with bullets, but don't use more than three or five for each job and don't load your resume with too many achievements, or you'll seem unbelievable or too good to be true. Some employers include a college degree as a requirement based on the types of duties the candidate is expected to perform. If that's the case, focus on high-level responsibilities in your resume to show that your capabilities are consistent with those the company expects from a candidate with a degree.
Employers often recruit candidates with a college degree because completing one reflects perseverance and the ability to achieve life goals. If the job posting says a degree is required but doesn't require one in a specific discipline, use your resume to show how you achieve other professional and life goals. Long-term employment is one way to demonstrate commitment, so if you've been at your current job for a while, play it up on your resume.
State Your Case
Getting an interview is a sign that you've overcome the biggest obstacle to being considered for a job that requires a degree. Your resume and application obviously impressed the recruiter or hiring manager enough to pique her curiosity. She wants to learn more about you and what you have to offer the organization. Focus on describing what you bring to the table instead of apologizing for why you don't have a degree or why you haven't completed your degree.
Here Comes the Inevitable
If you have just a few classes until you complete your degree, say that. Or, if you have a large number of credit hours in your major area of study, explain how much you've completed in your discipline or major. This is particularly important if the job requires a discipline-specific degree, such as social work, accounting, marketing and so on. Tell the interviewer that you have the theoretical foundation required and the work history that demonstrates practical application of your knowledge.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.