Many people wonder about the credibility of online colleges in the job market. Do employers find them worthwhile for hiring candidates? Are the online colleges treated as being on par with the brick-and-mortar colleges? Or are brick-and-mortar colleges preferred by recruiters and hiring managers much more than the online colleges?
The short answer to this is ‘yes’, online colleges certainly can get you the job you so very much want. When a prospective employee lists their college degree in their resume or CV, it basically tells the employer that this person has the drive, motivation and interest in learning and applying things in that field.
A college degree also signals determination and the ability to challenge oneself and to rise above them in a chosen major or industry. That is the first prerequisite to employment that any employer is looking for in a candidate.
Whether you study at an online college or at a brick-and-mortar one, the key to getting the job depends on how capable the employers perceive you to be for the given job.
A few things of importance is whether you have the skills and knowledge (and education) required for the job, good communication skills and so on.
The Online College Question
All job interviews are about the candidate and the employer getting to know one another. More importantly, it is about the candidate’s ability in smoothly addressing the employer’s main concerns or questions about his or her ability to do well in the chosen job. Therefore one question that an interviewer is likely to ask a candidate with an online college degree is about why they chose an online degree and what their experiences were with studying online.
Did you get to interact with other students on a personal level or was everything done only online? How about social interaction with the teachers or professors at the college, was it all online or offline? Here, the interviewer is trying to figure out if you have learnt the required social skills to form good work relationships at the company.
There are a few ways you can answer this question to their satisfaction:
Response #1 (EVENTS/ STUDENT MEETS)
Though most of my classes were online, we had certain events or classes every semester (or every year) where all the students met one another and also had the opportunity to meet personally with the teachers.
Response #2 (LOCAL STUDENT NETWORK)
Many of my classes were online and I still formed many friendships with my classmates online and met several of them on weekends at a library or elsewhere. So I had the benefit of the college experience though many of the classes were conducted online.
Response #3 (MIXED-MODE LEARNING)
Some of my classes were conducted online, whereas some others were on-campus classes or live in-person trainings and so on. So I got the best of both the online learning experience and the campus classes in a live setting.
Response #4 (INTERACTIVE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT)
Yes my classes were all online but there were also many live webinars and live chats with my classmates and the professors. This gave us all the opportunity to connect and to learn in a classroom environment and also to ask questions and to get our doubts cleared by the professor or other students.
Either of the above four responses would work and you can choose the right one that matches your circumstances and the one that you’re comfortable with. This way, you will be able to answer any of their followup questions with ease.
Reputation of the Online College
Apart from the regional accreditation, most colleges have certain rankings or accomplishments they are proud of. For example, the fully-online college WGU (Western Governors University) is ranked highly by employers and has won many awards. The college also won the praise of ex-president Obama and Bill Gates as early as 2013.
Meanwhile, Granite State College has been ranked among the Best Online Programs for Bachelors Degrees’ by USNews in 2020. The others such as Excelsior, Empire State, Charter Oak and Thomas Edison State University carry their own set of accreditation and awards.
These provide an indication of the reputation of each of these colleges. For a more detailed review of these flexible colleges with online courses, take a look at the College Shortcuts book.
The Job Industry and Prospects
The industry has a major role to play in the number of available job openings. For example, information technology, healthcare and the energy sector such as oil& gas are areas with a lot of opportunities and above-average pay scales.
If a person has a college degree in one of these fields, along with the practical skills or experience to match, it is relatively easier to get multiple interviews and a great job. It will hardly make much difference whether the degree is from an online college or a brick-and-mortar college for the right candidate.
Candidates: Demand and Supply
Sales managers and marketing professionals are always in high demand and the number of available candidates are considerably less than the supply of qualified people. Similarly, software professionals, medical professionals and also truck drivers are in constant demand and there just aren’t enough available people to fill those job vacancies.
So getting a job is more of a demand versus supply and is quite independent of online or on-campus college settings. In such hot and in-demand occupations, a lot of times, even an associate degree or just some experience is enough to land the perfect job.
First and foremost, your resume is your surest mark of success or otherwise. A superb resume can always get you many inquiries and phone conversations. These can quickly lead to many interviews and job offers for the highly motivated candidate.
Recruiters and managers receive hundreds or thousands of resumes and it is very important for your resume to stand out from the regular, mundane candidates. Most resumes do not get a second look and about 95% of them never make it to the hiring manager’s desk. They are frequently filtered-out by the recruiters and quickly discarded.
For a results-driven resume that is sure to grab attention, please check out my earlier post on Good Resume Examples for Graduates and Professionals.
GPA and Electives
For new college graduates or those with limited experience, having a good to great GPA can do wonders. It is best to mention a great GPA in the resume and then to expand further on it in the interviews when such an opportunity arises.
Go through the job description carefully and then try to customize either your resume or cover letter to highlight any college courses/ electives that closely match the job requirements. This will aid in emphasizing your suitability for the job position.
Jack Carroll in Sales Mentor Associates states that the The Art of Salesmanship Is the Absence of Salesmanship. Interviewing for a job is also very much about salesmanship where you are basically selling your capabilities, skills and time in exchange for a salary and career.
Excellent presentation skills and the ability to tactfully handle all of the employer’s objections or concerns can greatly turn the interviews in your favor. Follow this up with a calm and yet confident approach with keen interest in the position, but without the slightest desperation for landing the job.
For more on interviewing skills, take a look at my book on Job Search in Software Development. Though this book is primarily geared towards technology professionals, the general interview strategies are applicable to professionals in all industries and careers.
So to summarize, for a good candidate with a great resume, it simply makes no difference whether your college degree was earned from an online college or an on-campus college. All that matters is how confident you can make the employer feel about your perfect suitability for the position.
Remember that the interviewer also has bosses and colleagues whom they need to impress by choosing the best candidate for the open position. So if you have the ability to make the hiring manager proud to be hiring you, then you will surely be offered the job and with all the right salary and perks.
Here is a quick listing of the top things required for getting a job:
1) Your ability to completely satisfy and impress the interviewer with your response if they ask whether you studied at an online college.
2) The general reputation and ranking of your college
3) The right industry with ample job opportunities
4) More demand for candidates with lesser supply of the right candidates
5) A Stellar and Wow!’Resume
6) Highlighting all your best qualities for the job such as a great GPA (if you had a high GPA), any college electives, courses or experience that match the job requirements
7) Good salesmanship with a calm, motivated and yet relaxed approach
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