A skills-based job interview in progress

There was a time when hiring was driven by the education-first method where educational qualifications were the decisive factors about whom to hire or not. Another phenomenon called “degree inflation” was also focused upon once upon a time when candidates were required to have completed higher education to be considered for the role. However, skills-based hiring is the buzzword today.

This process focuses on the candidates’ skills and responsibilities instead of their qualifications and academic credentials. It’s believed that by adopting a skills-based recruitment process, hiring managers can open up their talent pool and locate candidates who are actually the best fit for the role.

Understanding Skills-Based Hiring

Skills-based hiring refers to the practice of screening and hiring candidates based on their capabilities, skills, and talent instead of the degree they hold or their educational background. Such hiring considers hard skills and soft skills to screen in candidates, instead of eliminating qualified applicants just because they lack the right background.

Conducting a job audition or skills assessment is the easiest way to execute a skills-based hiring process. Some companies incorporate skill assessments early in their screening process, thus making sure to focus on candidates who are uniquely qualified to perform the advertised roles or jobs.

With a skills-based approach, recruiters can beat some of the biggest challenges in the conventional hiring process. But how is this approach different from typical recruitment processes? Let’s try to understand.

Typical hiring processes use traditional tactics and screening tools to search for keywords on an application, thus verifying if the candidate is fit for the role. Instead of talent, these screening practices focus on the candidate’s education or degree to decide if the individual is the “right fit” for the role.  

This approach can be misleading due to several reasons. To begin with, resumes are often untrustworthy as several candidates may either inflate their experience or lie outright. Second, a degree can’t essentially tell you if a candidate can perform the job well.

For instance, recruiters looking at the resume of a candidate with a computer science degree may assume the person knows JavaScript and has the requisite skills to handle the job. However, the university computer science program may not have taught JavaScript, which means assessing the candidate based on the academic qualification alone would be wrong.

Again, a recruiter dismissing another candidate’s self-taught JavaScript skills just because he doesn’t have the right certification or pedigree may lose out on top talent. The key lies in giving the candidates a chance to prove their skills as is done in a skills-based recruitment process.

The Growing Popularity of Skills-Based Hiring

According to a 2022 research report by the Burning Glass Institute, resetting degree requirements in a wide array of roles started before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. However, the pandemic sped up the process. This report states that just 27% of the pivot to skills-based hiring is a short-term reaction to the pandemic-induced recruitment crisis or “cyclical reset,” while 63% (the majority) can be called a “structural reset.”

According to hiring experts, by dropping degrees in their job postings, employers become more focused on specific skill-sets and tend to spell out the soft skills that are assumed to accompany a college education, such as writing, being detail-oriented, communication, leadership, interpersonal relationships, and a positive work attitude.

These soft skills are usually fundamental to positions in administration, marketing and sales, and service teams. When reviewing candidates’ resumes, recruiters can also spot relevant experiences by focusing on words like “solved,” “developed,” “improved,” “fixed,” or “analysed” to recognize their intellectual abilities better.

How Can You Hire Based on Skills?

Compared to education-based hiring, skills-based hiring is 5X predictive of future performance. By doing away with minimum degree requirements for suitable positions, hiring managers can unlock new groups of eligible candidates.

By stripping degree requirements from their job postings, companies can encourage millions of additional applicants to apply. And when these eligible candidates apply, recruiters can focus on both soft and hard skills to find suitable ones. For instance, some hard skills to focus on could be pre-employment testing and the candidate’s previous work history and certifications.

For instance, tech companies can find entry-level employees with good basic skills by recruiting candidates who have successfully finished short-term courses in coding schools or graduated from bootcamps. Such recruitment will help enhance the diversity of talents and skills within these companies.

Final Words

In the future, intellectual capacity and performance are set to become the driving force at companies and in people’s career progression. Consequently, the focus would move from degrees and academic credentials to whether the candidate is capable of doing the job. Thus, skills-based hiring is likely to become the new mantra for companies across the world.

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