Making the Switch to Skills-Based Hiring: Why It's Important, How to Do It, and Why Verifiable Skills are Key

When filling any given position, haven't organizations always adhered to skills-based hiring practices? After all, if you're hiring a technician, candidates need the tech chops to get the job done, so those skills are the bar they must, at minimum, meet. If you're hiring an administrative assistant, candidates need to be proficient in Microsoft Office. Right? Technically yes, but it's not as simple as that.

In 2017, Accenture and Harvard Business School released a study, Dismissed by Degrees, which found that hirers in all facets of business tend to view a college degree as a sort of blanket qualification, or a "proxy" for both technical and emotional skills. The degree is the bar candidates must, at minimum, meet. One big reason that's a problem, especially in this tight hiring market, is that it instantly shrinks the pool of candidates to those with college degrees. Right off the bat, this practice eliminates candidates who have learned skills outside of work or school, as well as those candidates who haven't optimized their resumes to conform to applicant tracking system barriers.

Another problem with this more traditional approach to hiring: Skills are usually assessed later in the hiring process. Organizations bring in candidates that meet their requirements, such as a bachelor's degree or higher, or X number of years of experience in a similar role. Then, after the first few rounds of interviews, the hiring manager may get around to assessing the candidate's skills. Sound familiar? That's the way it has been done for a long, long time.

It makes more sense to focus on the skills necessary to get the job done, and make those skills — especially those that are verifiable— the standard for who gets an interview. That's true skills-based hiring. It widens the talent pool and assures you're hiring the people who actually have the skills to get the job done.

The crucial piece of the process is the word "verifiable." If your organization commits to hiring on the basis of skills, you need to ensure that candidates actually have those skills, not unverified claims on a resume. This is where digital credentials are worth their weight in gold. Digital credentials are the verified proof of skills, packaged neatly for hiring managers to utilize during the recruitment process.

Switching to skills-based hiring

Switching your hiring model to skills-based hiring requires a significant time investment on the front end. It means deconstructing every role in your organization into the skills necessary to get the job done, rewriting job descriptions based on that, and putting verifiable skills front and center in your hiring process.

It sounds daunting. The good news? You don't have to do it alone. Plenty of resources exist to help you get started. Here are some ideas:

  • Make digital credentials your go-to. They're quick, they're verifiable, and they make the process of vetting candidates easy.
  • Start small. You don't have to overhaul the entire recruitment process in one sitting. The enormousness of that task is off-putting. Instead, pick one role that tends to have the most turnover and start there. Hint: The reason it has the most turnover might be a gap between your hiring process and getting people with the skills to do the job.
  • Enlist the help of your managers and top performers. Your top performers know what it takes to get the job done, and your managers know who has the right stuff and who doesn't. In HR, it's up to you to craft their input into the language of skills.
  • Check out online resources. You can find free, online tools for helping you evaluate the competencies and skills necessary for each role, writing skills-based job descriptions, and conducting interviews. One great resource is Skillful, an initiative launched in 2016 with a $24 million grant from Microsoft to foster skills-based hiring, training, and education. They provide free hiring, onboarding, and development tools.

If you're interested in learning more about skills-based hiring, download our new white paper, "The Ultimate Guide to Skills-Based Hiring." 

By Patricia Diaz