The habit of over-emphasising the importance of conferred degrees and titles, over the intrinsic skills and knowledge these qualifications are supposed to signify.

Some people may complain (particularly those uncredentialed) that academic and industry certification (piece of paper) does not accurately measures or guarantees the competency a holder may have in carrying out an assigned task. Von Hayek identified credentialism as a hinderence in the free market, particularly when public bureaucracies turn out to be full of people whose sole criterion for the job appears to be the ability to quote Ovid. Oracle programmers, amongst others, will see credentialism in the practice of re-sitting certification exams everytime an application is updated with the most trivial of changes.

Under public choice theory, credentialism comes as a result of education institutions and other adjudicators of proficiency having an undue influence in the employment market. People with qualifications are also indirectly pressured to support credentialism as this also strengthens their employability. Managers, who are responsibile for the quality of the staff they pick, find credentialism as an easy way to select staff - if they choose an underperformer, they can hardly be blamed if they were guided by the underperformer's qualifications.