The role of educational credentials and skills in the hiring process

The project investigates for the German-speaking part of Switzerland for which jobs graduates with different educational qualifications (e.g. VET, professional education, university diplomas) are preferred within an occupational field. Of particular interest are the competencies and skills that employers associate with different educational qualifications.

Manager looking at many different cv resume and choosing perfect person
Adobe Stock/Mariia Korneeva

Content and objectives of the research project

Occupation-specific educational certificates play a key role in the Swiss labour market. They serve as a guide for graduates in the job search process and as the most important criterion for companies when selecting job applicants. However, there are often several educational qualifications at different levels of education within the occupational fields that are relevant to a position. A typical example is the occupation of IT technician which can be studied for on a VET programme, at a college of higher education, at a university of applied sciences or at a traditional university. The project explores which candidates with educational qualifications at different levels are preferred by employers for particular positions and looks at what influence characteristics of the job profile, the company and recruiters themselves have. The results will provide new findings on the context-specific value of educational credentials and employer preferences.

Scientific and social context

A major contentious issue in education policy is what proportion of young people should pursue vocational or general educational paths. While many parents assume that a university education provides better employment opportunities, education policy underlines the equal status of both paths. International research shows that the value of educational credentials depends on the structure of national education systems and their links with the labour market. For Switzerland, it is a largely open question in which labour market context particular occupational field-specific educational qualifications offer advantages or disadvantages. The research project intends to provide answers and to improve the understanding of the role of educational qualifications in explaining employment opportunities. From a scientific perspective it also seeks to achieve greater insight into the mechanisms of the matching process between young job applicants and employers.


The project combines various methods of analysis and consists of three methodological parts. Qualitative interviews with HR recruitment professionals are carried out in the first part. They form the basis for the second part which consists of a vignettes study. As part of an online survey, HR recruitment professionals are presented with a selection of various short CVs (vignettes) from fictitious applicants. HR recruitment professionals from companies advertising vacancies at the time of data collection are surveyed. The assessment of the fictitious CVs aims to determine which profile the ideal candidates for particular jobs should possess. The third part of the study is based on quantitative secondary analysis which complements the previous analysis with Job Room data from SECO. Job seekers can register on the Job Room platform via which employers can search for and contact candidates. The data allow an analysis of the search behaviour and preferences of employers.