A Doctor is a doctor; is not a doctor. Are you PhinisheD yet?


As confusing as the article's title is a human resources (HR) manager may be just as equally confused. There are alot of doctoral degrees available from globally accepted and accredited universities. People who attend these universities work hard to earn their degrees. There are others who may state they have a doctoral degree in say divinity. Very exciting until the HR manager finds out that the person paid $39.95 for the degree from a university degree mill. Sometimes we need to have a process for fact checking prospective employees.

It is important to differentiate between someone that is a PhinisheD (PhD) graduate and those who are still working on their degree. I use the term PhinisheD to describe doctoral graduate survivors who have met all requirements for a doctoral degree and have graduated. You may also see jokingly terms such as Phinally Done (PhD)! All representative of the actual completion of the degree.

To complete a doctoral degree one must write the infamous dissertation. Doctoral students often give themselves titles such as PhD candidate (PhD-C) or PhD All But Dissertation (PhD-ABD). Yet, the ultimate bottom line is that the prospective employee is not done.

Many doctoral students who have passed their comprehensive exams that are generally given in year 2 of the programs or upon completion of all course work give themselves these titles. That may sound wonderful as a demonstration of educational achievement; yet, a person is not PhinisheD until they actually complete and defend their doctoral dissertation in front of their dissertation committee. This means that a student spends years collecting data, combing through necessary archives, and then writing the darn thing - typically locked in a room away from interruptions BEFORE the dissertation is approved. In other words, "what life?"

A doctoral dissertation is like completing an Ironman Triathlon. Mentally you have an end goal; yet, the steps to completing the Ironman Triathlon in between can become the psychological barriers to success. Sometimes the Doctoral Student becomes their own barrier to success as they derail and stall their own personal success. This may be done by continually reading more and more information or meeting more and more research subjects to "perfect" the dissertation. Daring to stop reading and beginning to write is the first step towards educational completion and becoming PhinisheD. Students can research all they want; yet, if they do not begin to write they will never get done.

When many of our staff first began their doctoral programs, they walked in blind. There were rumors about the process and a desire to get PhinisheD. Yet, even as they listened and learned; they hit the realization that there is more to this degree than beginning, comp exams, and dissertation. They had to learn the Doctoral Fight Club rules. The first and most important rule is "never let them (your advisors) see you sweat" and "Act like you know it - Google later". Sweating equates to a demonstration of not knowing something. The fight club is the place where all doctoral students go to get recognized for their knowledge, skills, and abilities. It is not a physical fight club; rather, it is where all the dreams, aspirations, goals and attitudes live on the road to success. Graduate school is about learning new information, applying it to present life, and then move forward with the gained information to a career.

Often the road from the first day of a doctoral program to graduation is filled with many sleepless nights and so much reading that student's eyes may want to just stay shut 99% of the time. It takes razor sharp concentration and ongoing desire for success to win in this process.

The HR Manager and the PhinnisheD Employee Candidate

Most HR managers may review a resume, think they have an ideal candidate, and then find out differing information. Just as our staff was recently confused by a potential PhD candidate. While doing a background check on the candidate we ran across her LinkedIn page. Her doctoral degree information was on LInkedIn - she stated she had her PhD. Yet, through conversation with the candidate; she admitted that she was a "doctoral candidate". She had been on hiatus from her university for over a year. For some people, their hiatus becomes permanent.

It is an HR red flag when a prospective employee fails to provide a copy of a transcript for a doctoral degree or other degree program. Or original copies of degrees to prospective employers.

The Doctoral Candidate and Employment.

What does it mean to be a doctoral candidate and why should this matter to a HR recruiter? Well, some "doctoral candidates" languish in the candidate status for years. They extend their candidacy, take extended leaves, and often do not complete their degrees. When a person is a "doctoral candidate" this means that he or she has taken a "comprehensive" examination that reviews learning to that point in time. Some students conversely utilize the term "all but dissertation" (ABD). Although this generally describes a student who has taken the comprehensive examination; there are some students who use the term "candidate" to mean that they are in school only. Graduation is not guaranteed for any doctoral student. Nor is it guaranteed that their dissertation will be accepted by the dissertation committee.

Failure to complete a dissertation is actually either a career failure, financial choice, or personal choice or a combination of these factors. Ultimately, the individual has given up and moved on without their degree. Many of these individuals end up carrying a large student loan debt without a degree. A disturbing trend of 50% of all doctoral students leave grad school without finishing their doctoral degree (Cassuto, L. 2013).

This lends credence to the PhinisheD requirements of employment. If an HR manager sees PhD or PsyD (ABD) or (C) on a resume or CV, begin asking questions. These might include a request for certified copies of transcripts from the University prior to employment, letters of recommendation from the student's advisor, and deeper questions about the student's dissertation and topic. This will provide you information if the student is still in school and their status in the degree process.

If a student continues to use the moniker of "ABD" or "Candidate" even when no longer in school; what is the prospective employee's value proposition to a firm? LinkedIn is wonderful; yet, those (C) profiles are concerning and lead to more questions when contemplating hiring the individual to your firm.

The end game analysis

A person is either a PhD/PsyD/DBA or not (PsyD and DBA are another form of doctoral degree). Placing an unfinished degree on your resume or CV could lead to future issues if the degree is not completed. It is like advertising that you are purchasing a fillet mignon when you are only given a chuck steak. Doesn't really work for many firms. Would you pay for a chuck steak when you order a fillet mignon?

Our firm views a person with a moniker of "ABD" and "candidacy" as climbing Mount Everest and being "all but Summit" (ABS). Basically the prospective employee has made it to the base camp; yet has a long way to go to finish their mission - completion of a dissertation. Someone who states on their CV or resume "ABD" or "Candidacy" is basically announcing that they haven't yet delivered the required dissertation. They are chuck steak instead of the advertised fillet mignon.

The work done by the student year to date is important; yet, if the student does not have clear plans for graduation and completion it will become a deeper issue when hired. The title the student/prospective employee gives themselves is meaningless until they actually complete all degree requirements including acceptance of the dissertation by the dissertation committee. The person in the mirror has responsibility for completion or non-completion; not the hiring firm.

Thus a doctor is not a doctor until they are PhinisheD and graduated.

For more information or employment opportunities, please contact ILKA Technologies, Inc. via our contact us page.

#CareerTransition #Education #educationmanagement #resume #cv #PhD #PsyD #Graduation #FilletMignon #ChuckSteak

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