scorecardMicrosoft execs explain why they don't require a college degree for entry-level positions
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Microsoft execs explain why they don't require a college degree for entry-level positions

Aaron Holmes   

Microsoft execs explain why they don't require a college degree for entry-level positions
Tech2 min read
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REUTERS/Rick Wilking

  • Jobs at Microsoft are highly sought-after, but many entry-level positions don't require a college degree.
  • The company avoids ruling out applicants based on prior credentials, focusing instead on soft skills and a willingness to learn.
  • According to executives, this approach helps bolster diversity at Microsoft.
  • Microsoft is one of several major tech companies to widen its hiring practices in an effort to recruit from a more diverse talent base.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Landing a job at Microsoft without a college degree is within reach - even if your name isn't Bill Gates.

That's because, for many entry-level positions, Microsoft doesn't require that candidates hold a college degree, instead encouraging anyone who believes they're a good fit to apply.

Microsoft executives spoke to Business Insider about the reasons for that practice. They said the decision not to require certain credentials for entry-level jobs allows Microsoft to recruit from a broader talent base, and ultimately builds a more diverse workforce at the company.

"If you have the same people who have the same STEM degree and same background and everything, they're not going to be able to solve all our problems," CVP of cybersecurity solutions Ann Johnson told Business Insider. "If you have people that come in with a lot of different backgrounds, they can actually think differently."

Microsoft isn't the only major tech company eschewing traditional expectations for job requirements. Google and Apple have broadcasted a similar policy of accepting job applications from anyone regardless of their educational background, as the broader tech industry grapples with combatting its chronic lack of diversity.

Johnson, who has spoken at length about the need for a more diverse workforce, said college degrees aren't a perfect indicator of whether a candidate will perform well in a role - instead, she encourages a focus on soft skills like teamwork and curiosity, as well as a candidate's willingness to self-train and learn quickly.

Ping Look, who leads Microsoft's cybersecurity Detection and Response Team, added that candidates who apply to jobs without a college degree already signal a level of determination that she respects.

"There are some companies like, you don't have a degree so we're not going to interview you for an entry-level job," she told Business Insider. "We give them a chance because they clearly have some tenacity or desire to be working here. It's worth having a conversation with them."

Employees echo that sentiment - Ram Shankar Siva Kumar, a "data cowboy" working on security for Microsoft Azure, told Business Insider that workers without college degrees have strengthened his team.

"Some people have PhDs, some people have traditional engineering degrees, some people actually have not even been to college," he said. "This might sound very Oprah-ish, but being 'you' really does help."

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