9 tips for improving skills-based hiring at your organization

9 tips for improving skills-based hiring at your organization

Traditionally, hiring managers have made decisions based on candidates' educational backgrounds and degrees. Today, more organizations are leaning toward skills-based hiring. Research shows that this hiring concept is most commonly used for middle-skill positions, but it's also starting to apply to some higher-skill roles as well.

Over the years, degree-based hiring has weeded out some stellar candidates. In fact, a study in 2017 found that more than 60% of employers were rejecting candidates with skills and experience who lacked a degree. More recent research shows that the data is changing as the focus becomes geared toward technical and soft skills.

Are you trying to make the switch to a skills-based hiring program? Here are a few things you should know before you take on a new hiring strategy.

What is skills-based hiring?

"You'll be focusing on what your candidates are able to do rather than what they studied."

Before you try out a new approach, it's a good idea to have a solid understanding of skills-based hiring. If you implement this type of hiring policy, you plan to screen job applicants for competency rather than education or work history. You'll be focusing on what your candidates are able to do rather than what they studied.

The benefits of skills-based hiring

Skills-based hiring offers many benefits for your organization. For instance, you'll be expanding your talent pool and adding new candidates to the mix. You'll also gather a solid mix of workers with different educational and experience backgrounds. As a result, your staff will become more diverse. You can focus on getting the best talent for your organization.

How to implement skills-based hiring

Now that you have a better idea of what skills-based hiring is, you may need some help figuring out how to put this strategy into action. Here are some essential steps to take if you want to see a difference in your hiring processes.

Know which skills are most important to the role

If you want to provide the most accurate evaluation of the candidates you see, you may want to start by sitting down with the rest of the team to develop a list of competencies a candidate should have to be successful in the job. Managers will have a good idea of the hard and soft skills necessary for a role in each department. 

Make a list of these skills, and be sure you have a specific idea of each skill you need to test for. As an example, instead of simply noting that candidates should be knowledgeable about online learning management, be specific about which learning management tools each candidate should have experience with.

Offer upskilling opportunities

Perhaps you don't need every newly hired worker to begin employment having all the skills they'll need to complete the job. You can offer the opportunity to upskill applicants who offer some promising skills. Professional development classes, learning resources, and on-the-job training will help candidates upskill and focus on core needs for the position. This is also a great retention strategy, as your workers will feel that the organization has invested in building their skill set.

Update job descriptions

If you intend to hire a candidate for a role based on skills, your job description should reflect this. Under a heading like "Required Qualifications," you might include skills rather than a degree program or years of work history. Educational or work experience requirements could keep otherwise qualified and knowledgeable individuals from applying, and you'll lose out on great candidates.

When you write your job description, keep these tips in mind:

  • List technical skills in addition to soft skills, such as communication and teamwork.
  • Avoid listing certifications and licenses if they aren't hard requirements for employment.
  • Include a note about the skills assessments you plan to include in the interview process.
  • Provide information about why a candidate should apply for this role, and include details about what makes this role fulfilling and worthwhile.

Organize a skills test

If you offer a skills test early in the hiring process, you can assess a candidate's creativity or their ability to learn new skills. Additionally, assessments and skills tests can help eliminate potential bias in the interview process, and you'll be able to screen applicants before you look at resumes and schedule interviews.

The key to this step is to choose only the assessments that are most relevant. You might ask managers in each department to develop tests you can use to track skills such as English proficiency, communication, or software knowledge. Once you've created the tests, look for steps you can take to automate the scoring process as much as possible.

If you aren't comfortable with testing every candidate, you might instead ask each one to complete a short-term trial project that you pay them for. You can also ask this applicant to work on a project alongside the existing team so you can determine what they can contribute to the team. If you have several candidates up for consideration, you might instead offer an at-home assignment they can bring to the interview. This is a great way to assess a candidate's skills even if they aren't the most effective at interviewing.

Explore new ways to attract great candidates

While you may have placed job ads on several websites in the past, now might be the best time to get innovative in the way you source talent. For example, you might have recruiters work with different talent networks to bring in new applicants, or you might visit educational institutions, conferences, or networking events to talk to candidates with non-traditional experience. Make sure you tell candidates that they don't need to have a degree or other credentials, if that's the case. You'll attract skilled applicants who wouldn't have thought they'd have a chance.

Reconsider the way you filter resumes

If you use an applicant tracking system to screen resumes, you may want to check that you're using the filter to catch words related to skills rather than education or work history. You might set your program to look for resumes that list familiarity with certain types of software or online tools, for example. You can also list soft skills, such as communication, empathy, and leadership.

Assess what each candidate can add to your team

While many managers try to look for applicants who perfectly match an existing team, you may find it more helpful to look for an applicant who brings something new to the table. You can start this process by assessing your organization's values and determining how you can be both inclusive and dynamic.

Create a sustainable hiring practice

Skills-based hiring can be entirely sustainable if you can get managers on board to develop the skills of your new hires. Look for candidates who have skills to offer, not merely educational background or years of work history in a field that may be just slightly relevant to your company's goals. 

Related reading: attracting top talent to your open positions

Do you want to make sure candidates are honest? Here are a few ways to catch lies in a resume.

The market can be tough, but that doesn't mean you have to lose great talent. Check out these tips for hiring in a competitive market.

If you're in the middle of a hiring spree, avoid getting trapped. Here are six time wasters you'll want to avoid.

If you already interviewed some candidates with an experienced-based hiring strategy, you may want to reapproach them. Here are some ways to re-engage previous candidates.

Your job listings could make all the difference in attracting great talent. These tips help you write compelling job descriptions.

Are you hiring workers with the intent to help them develop skills? These upskilling tips will make that process much easier.

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