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    A Beginner's Guide to Skills-Based Hiring

    5 mins

    The recruiting game is changing. Employers looking to improve employee fit and combat growing skill gaps are looking past traditional requirements like degrees and job titles when hiring. Instead, they're focusing on a candidate's practical, technical, and soft skills, and in doing so, they're reaping various additional benefits. From cutting back on cost and time-to-hire to boosting overall diversity and improving job success rates, skill-based hiring is making for better matches between company and candidate.

    What is Skills-Based Hiring?

    Skills-based hiring is an approach to talent acquisition that focuses on a candidate's individual skills rather than the history they’ve listed on their resume. It deprioritizes or even eliminates education and work history requirements and instead utilizes skill assessments, portfolios, relevant behavioral questions during interviews, and other means to verify a candidate's stated skills.

    Higher education has become prohibitively expensive, and many people are picking up in-demand skills, like programming, audio/video production, engineering, UX/UI, and soft skills, by other means – boot camps, online or in-person courses and certifications, and on-the-job work.

    By eliminating or loosening degree and work history requirements, employers typically find that they can significantly expand and diversify their potential talent pools. When verifiable skills are fronted in the hiring process, organizations are much more likely to successfully fill open positions.

    Hiring For Skills or Hiring for Roles?

    There are a few key ways that skills-based hiring differs from traditional recruiting methods, also referred to as roles-based hiring.

    • Roles-based hiring tends to focus on directly relevant education or experience – a diploma in a specific field or a job title match with a minimum number of years of experience in that role.

    • Skills-based hiring, as the name implies, relies more on a candidate’s proven skills, verified via assessments, tests, projects, portfolios, and relevant interview questions. Degree or experience requirements are often dropped completely in skills-based hiring.

    • Traditional roles-based hiring remains most appropriate for positions requiring certain credentials or specific training, like medicine or accounting.

    • Skills-based hiring is excellent for filling entry-level and mid-career positions.

    • Resumes and cover letters are king in traditional talent acquisition, while skills-based hiring employs skill tests, evaluations, and references to verify competency.

    Get Your Business on Board with Skills-Based Hiring

    The shift from traditional recruiting to skills-based hiring won't happen overnight. It takes change at every step of the recruiting and hiring process. When well implemented, it can save your organization time and money in the long run. 

    Let’s take a look at how your organization can make the leap to a skills-based hiring process and start reaping the benefits.

    1. Adjust Your Approach to Advertising to New Talent

    If you want to emphasize demonstrable skill over education or work history, ensure potential candidates can see it. Here’s how you can accomplish that:

    • Ditch degree requirements when possible. Review your job descriptions and open listings. Decide whether a college degree or minimum years of experience with a specific job title are truly necessary for a candidate to excel in a role. Often, they aren’t.

    • Identify core skills for new hires. Map out the skills new employees will need to succeed on day one (these are your must haves), as well as the skills they can learn on the job. Make this clear in your job descriptions.

    • Get the word out with updated language. Job postings, social media recruiting announcements, the company career and recruiting pages, and your organization's LinkedIn profile are all stopping points for interested job seekers. Encourage these potential candidates to apply for positions they have the necessary skills for, even if their formal education and experience don't match up.

    • Expand your candidate sourcing methods. Public job postings and referrals are still a good start, but more great candidates are still to be found. Look into partnering or connecting with professional networks, skill boot camps and certification programs, and technical schools and community colleges in your areas of operation.

    2. Tweak Your Processes to Better Screen for Qualified Candidates

    You'll likely need to make the most significant changes at the candidate screening and interviewing stages. To be successful, skills-based hiring practices must implement ways to assess candidates and verify their stated skills.

    Let’s take a look at the specifics…

    • Reduce bias in your applicant screening process. You're not doing away with resumes entirely, and you'll likely be running background checks. Make sure you're taking steps to reduce unconscious bias in your candidate screening by redacting irrelevant information from these sources -- names of schools, employers, candidates, addresses, etc.

    • Reconsider what information you utilize from background checks. Modern background checks can provide an overwhelming amount of information about a candidate, and not all of it is relevant to the position you’re looking to fill. You can reduce bias in candidate screening by reviewing only the pertinent parts of the check.

    • Develop a strong, structured interview process, and make sure your interview team is well-trained and understands why the process is important. It’s time to do away with generic personality questions like, “If you were a crayon, what color would you be?” Interview questions should be relevant to the position you’re hiring for, and answers should provide easy insight into a candidate’s fit for a given role and the organization.

    • Conduct skill assessments to verify a candidate’s stated competencies. Skill assessments can be developed internally or outsourced to free or low-cost services. Depending on the role you want to fill, you may also conduct test projects or request references or a portfolio.

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    Brent Roberts
    Brent Roberts
    Passionate about making benefits and insurance easy to grasp.
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