Your skills-based hiring guide

January 8, 2021

Skills-based hiring has been a growing trend for years, as a way for employers to find better matches for the team and help candidates navigate changing industries. The pandemic accelerated these efforts (like so many other workplace related trends) as millions of talented, qualified workers were suddenly unemployed.  

Hiring based on a candidate’s skills, instead of strictly on education requirements and a list of job titles in a career path, can help put Americans back to work while building out teams that have the right technical skills and new perspectives.  

And while there is a heightened focus on this strategy as the U.S. economy is in recovery mode, it’s one that should be prioritized and implemented to future-proof your hiring and retention. Here’s how to make it happen. 

Think through what you actually need

Do you need someone who knows a consumer product, or are you most interested in applicants who can quickly build positive relationships with customers? Someone who might have previously worked as a server and is applying to your customer service rep position should not be taken out of the running simply because they lack that specific job title. Consider how your team gets work done and what skills and knowledge are missing, then build a job description to match. 

This New York Times article exploring the data to support skills-based hiring offers a good example: 

“An office administrative assistant is a typical example of a low-paying job that can be a portal to a better one. The skills required, according to employer surveys by the Labor Department, include written and verbal communication, time management, problem solving, attention to detail and a fluency with office technology. In short, a skill set that is valuable in many jobs.” 

Analyze your “requirements” in a job description. 

Would equivalent years of experience suffice in lieu of formal education? Would you consider a mix of experience and community college programs, audited classes and certifications? Plus, with a need for remote work, you might want to re-think any location requirements. For example, healthcare company Humana transformed its hiring process through data and skills, and hired the most qualified candidates they have seen and in record time.  

Talk about skills needed, instead of only job duties or experiences. 

Of course, it’s important to list what someone might be doing, but right now, you’re looking to attract and entice a job seeker to apply. Help that person see themselves in this role. Encourage applicants to frame their successes in terms of skills and how they accomplished major projects, making it easier for you to understand what they might bring to the team.  

For example, list that you’re looking for someone who is organized, can keep projects moving across teams and is a demonstrated strong communicator, instead of a set number of years as a project manager.  

Make sure you’re reaching diverse audiences. 

Great candidates can come from anywhere, and that’s at the heart of skills-based hiring. This strategy can be especially impactful when it comes to reaching talent who might not normally either have access to these positions or feel confident in applying. Diversifying your candidate sourcing can improve your overall inclusion initiatives, while widening the network of potential applicants. 

Use resumes and profiles to vet candidates. 

A one-page highlight reel (read: resume) is great to get an overview of a candidate’s professional experience. Their candidate profile, however, is where you’ll gain insight into who they are as a person and how committed they are to their professional life. You might see that someone is a dedicated community volunteer, and along the way, has picked up skills that are relevant to your role. Or, you might find someone is continuously updating their skills in the industry this role is in, even if they are working in another. Use both a candidate’s resume and profile to start piecing together how that person could contribute to your team. 

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