Job Performance and the New Credentialism

by Hrach Bedrosian, Daniel Diamond



In recent decades, the U.S. has become increasingly credentials-minded. Education, age, union membership, certificates, licenses, previous work experience, and appearance norms have become requirements for an increasing number of occupations in highly technological society, and the same requirements have become significant barriers to success for many Americans. Since the interdependent and complex character of an advanced industrial nation requires the formalization of economic activity, standards and procedures which serve to allocate resources have been created. In an agrarian economy, human resource utilization is naturally determined: the farmer and his family are automatically included in the work force. In an industrial setting, however, a formalized process of worker recruitment, training, evaluation and upgrading must be established-thus the basis for some form of credentialism. Only recently has credentialism in the world of work come under attack. Appropriately, most of the criticism has been directed at the hiring standards for less-skilled jobs, since candidates for these jobs enjoy the fewest number of work options. The U.S. Department of Labor concern over the excesses of credentialism in limited-skill jobs resulted in its sponsoring a comprehensive study of hiring requirements in ten major low- and semi-skilled occupations where labor shortages were reported. The overall objective of the study was to test the appropriateness of key hiring requirements and preferences in five white-collar jobs, four blue- collar jobs and one service occupation.

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