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Glossary: HR & Recruiting Definitions

What is credentialism?

Credentialism is a term used to describe the increasing emphasis on formal education and certifications as a requirement for obtaining and advancing in specific jobs. It’s an issue that has significant implications for human resources professionals and departments within organisations.

Definition of credentialism

Credentialism is an ideology that emphasises formal educational credentials above other ways of understanding human potential and ability. In this context, it refers to only hiring candidates with higher academic qualifications.

As more and more employers require higher levels of formal education and certifications for job candidates, it is becoming increasingly challenging for those without these credentials to find and secure employment, regardless of their qualifications or experience. This can make it difficult for organisations to find and retain a qualified and diverse workforce.

For human resources (HR) professionals, credentialism can present several challenges, including narrowing the talent pool of candidates, creating difficulties in hiring and promoting workers, and potentially leading to discrimination against workers without formal credentials.

Impact of credentialism on the workforce

Credentialism can affect different groups of workers in various ways. Some of the significant impacts of credentialism on the workforce are:

Limited job opportunities

Workers with formal education or certifications may find it easier to find employment, as many employers now require higher levels of formal education and certifications for job candidates. This can limit job opportunities for workers without these credentials, regardless of their qualifications or experience.

Age discrimination

Older workers who may need formal education or certifications might be disadvantaged in finding new employment, as employers tend to favour younger candidates with more recent qualifications.

Limited mobility

Credentialism can limit workers’ ability to move between jobs and industries, as different fields require formal education and certifications.


Credentialism can exacerbate existing inequalities in the workforce and decrease DEI. Workers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may be less likely to have formal education and certifications, making it more difficult to find and advance in specific jobs.

Overvaluation of education

Credentialism can lead to overvaluation of formal education and certifications while neglecting other important factors such as work experience, on-the-job training and performance evaluation, which can lead to a miss-hiring or over-qualification of employees.

Higher costs

Credentialism can also lead to higher costs for employers and workers, as workers may have to invest in formal education or certifications to qualify for specific jobs. Employers may have to pay higher salaries to workers with an educational degree and certifications.

Impact of credentialism in HR

Credentialism can significantly impact the HR department in your business. Some of the significant impacts of credentialism on HR are:

  • Difficulty in hiring and promoting workers: Credentialism can create challenges in hiring and promoting workers. HR departments may rely solely on formal education and certifications to evaluate job candidates rather than considering work experience and on-the-job performance.
  • Miss-hiring: Credentialism can lead to miss-hiring as it overvalues formal education and certifications over other essential qualifications like work experience, on-the-job training and performance evaluation.

Alternatives to credentialism

Credentialism emphasises formal education and certifications to advance or get specific jobs. It limits opportunities for workers without these credentials.

It might make you miss out on some great minds and skill sets. Therefore, organisations need to consider alternative ways of evaluating worker qualifications. Below we found some alternatives you can use to assess candidates:

  • Prior work experience: Prior work experience and CV can be an excellent indicator of a worker’s qualifications and ability to perform a particular job. Organisations can consider the type of work a candidate has done in the past, how long they have been working in a specific field, and how well they have performed in their previous roles.
  • On-the-job training: On-the-job training or reskilling can effectively evaluate worker qualifications and provide them with any additional skills they need to perform a particular job. Organisations can invest in training programmes that allow workers to learn the skills they need on the job rather than requiring them to have formal education or certifications.
  • Performance evaluations: Performance evaluations can be a helpful tool for organisations to assess how well workers are performing in their current roles and to identify areas for improvement. These evaluations can consider factors such as job performance, attendance, and attitude rather than formal education and certifications.
  • Job-specific assessments: Organisations can develop job-specific assessments to evaluate workers’ qualifications. These assessments can include soft or hard skills tests, case studies, and other performance-based evaluations directly related to the job requirements.
  • Portfolio-based evaluation: A portfolio-based evaluation system allows workers to demonstrate their skills, experience, and achievements through a collection of work samples, testimonials, and certifications. This can be more comprehensive and accurate in evaluating a candidate’s qualifications than relying on formal education and certifications alone.

Considering these alternative ways of evaluating a candidate’s qualifications, you can find and retain qualified workers, regardless of their formal education or certifications. This can help build a diverse and talented workforce and avoid potential discrimination and miss-hiring.

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