City Research Online

The meaning of higher education credentials in graduate occupations: the view of recruitment consultants

Tholen, G. ORCID: 0000-0001-6439-5046 (2022). The meaning of higher education credentials in graduate occupations: the view of recruitment consultants. Journal of Education and Work, 36(1), pp. 9-21. doi: 10.1080/13639080.2022.2162019


Three influential theories are used to understand why employers value and seek out educational credentials in hiring. Qualifications can function as proof of productive skills (Human Capital Theory), as a signal of desirable characteristics (Signalling and Screening theories) or as a means for social closure (Closure Theory). Although these explanations are not necessarily mutually exclusive, they tend to be presented as alternatives in the literature This article aims to better understand why employers value Higher Education degrees within the labour market by assessing these theoretical explanations in particular in cases where employers do not value HE credentials highly. It draws on semi-structured interview data with external recruitment consultants in England (N = 45). The article finds support for each of the three theoretical perspectives. Yet, the findings demonstrate that employers’ reasoning can include more than one of the three theoretical perspectives, creating hybrid forms. The article evaluates the implications for the positional competition for graduate jobs.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Publisher Keywords: Recruitment and selection; higher education; labour market; credentials
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of The meaning of higher education credentials in graduate occupations the view of recruitment consultants.pdf]
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (306kB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login