Focus on the Skills.

The main problem is only requiring degrees for certain positions is that degrees don't necessarily prove that a candidate has the necessary skills required for the job.

Did you know that some of the top companies no longer require a college degree to apply for a job? In fact, most of them have implemented this since at least 20181.

IBM, for example, said in 2017 that about 15% of the company's U.S. hires don't have a four-year degree. They also said that instead of looking exclusively for candidates with college degrees, they have started looking for candidates who have real-world experience and the skills needed for the job.

Companies that are no longer looking exclusively for candidates with college degrees include Google, Apple, Starbucks and Home Depot. In fact, economists predict even more opportunities for professionals without degrees in the future.

Let's face it, in today's competitive market, you don't have time to hire an applicant based solely on a degree, but then spend a lot of time and effort training the applicant for the job.

So competency-based hiring seems to be the solution to this problem, keeping companies productive and efficient while hiring the best candidate for the job.

But why not just focus on candidates with college degrees, and what are the benefits to your company of focusing on competency-based hiring? In this post, we explore these questions in more detail.

The Problem with requiring a college degree

The main problem with only requiring a college degree for certain positions is that a degree doesn't necessarily prove that a candidate has the hard and soft skills required for the job. However, because it is an effective way to reduce the number of applicants who apply and go to an interview, saving time and effort for hiring managers, companies have begun to require degrees as a prerequisite for open positions.

The problem is that in doing so, many good candidates are ignored because they don't have the required degree, even though they may have the necessary skills and experience for the job.

Another problem is that candidates with degrees who are eventually hired have a higher price tag than candidates without degrees2.

For example:

  • 63% of companies said they have difficulty filling middle-skill positions because there are many people with some college, many more with experience but no college, but only 20% with college degrees.

  • 90% of companies say they have difficulty finding qualified applicants and that it affects the growth of their business.

  • 60% of companies prefer college graduates over qualified applicants with mid-level skills and relevant experience simply because the applicant has a college degree.

  • 50% of employers pay college graduates higher salaries than non-college graduates for the same job. Yet companies perceive graduate and non-degree workers as nearly or equally productive.

  • Employees with graduate degrees have a shorter length of stay.

Despite these statistics and the fact that a graduate candidate costs a company more, 61% of companies still throw away applications if the candidate does not have the required degree, even if the candidate was appropriately qualified for the job.

Needless to say, this is a problem. Skills-based hiring is the perfect solution to this problem. It's a more balanced method of screening, and screening candidates is much easier when the skills for the job are clearly defined.

What is Skills Based Hiring?

Skills-based hiring is simply the practice of employers seeking specific skill requirements for a particular job and then requiring applicants to have those skills.

Depending on the job, these skills may include cognitive skills, hard skills, or soft skills, but once the skills are identified, the process of finding the right candidate for a particular job becomes much easier and saves time while causing less frustration for both the recruiter and the applicant.

Advantages of Skills Based Hiring

When employees are selected to fit a clearly defined skill set, they are easier to train and usually have a better understanding of their role in the company. They are also less costly to hire and onboard, unlike applicants with college degrees.

When you consider hiring based on skills rather than a degree, you often enjoy the following benefits as well:

  • Because there is a more exact match between the candidate and the position, you can expect a reduction in turnover of between 25% and 70%.

  • Since the candidate already has the required skills, you will have to spend less time on onboarding. This means you can expect a 25% to 75% reduction in onboarding time, onboarding costs, and time to full productivity.

  • Your hiring costs will be reduced by about 70% and time to hire will be reduced by 50 to 70%. Since the employee has the skills that were clearly defined in the job description, the employee will be productive faster and you will see a significant increase in employee productivity.

  • Because skills tests are designed to assess skills across a wider range of abilities, you can use the same skills-based methodology for all jobs in your organization. This means you save time by not having different assessment processes for different jobs.

  • It gives you the ability to find candidates for hard-to-fill positions that require unique skills for which there is often no degree.

Getting started with Skills Based Hiring

Now that you know the benefits that skills-based hiring can bring to your organization, you're probably thinking that it's complicated to switch from traditional skills-based hiring processes to skills-based hiring processes. Here are some best practices you can apply to ensure your hiring practices are as efficient and effective as possible.

To implement skill-based hiring practices for your organization, you should:

  • Determine the skills needed for each position. This often begins with a conversation with your hiring manager to determine the skills required for the position. You can divide the skills into those that are essential and those that are desirable. You can also determine soft skills and other skills that may be learned on the job.

  • Write job descriptions that focus on these skills. (See: What does your Job Posting say? - The Hussle Movement for more tips) Once you know what skills you are looking for in a candidate, you can write your job description. However, when writing the job description, make sure you clearly list the skills required and desired for the job.

  • Issue the job description. Once you have written the job description, it is important that it reaches out to the widest possible pool of talent for the position. Here, you can consider posting the job description on the numerous job boards and job websites on the internet, or you can hire a recruiter who has access to a huge pool of talent whose skills may be suitable for your position.

  • Use technology to pre-screen and rank candidates. After the job description has been online or with a recruiter for a while, you will likely receive a large number of applications. The solution to sifting through these applications is to use one of the many platforms available that can score resumes and applications based on the skills you define and need.

  • Conduct skill-based assessments. Once you've used a platform to narrow down your search, you can conduct a more thorough skills review. By doing this early in the process, you can be sure you're not wasting time on unnecessary interviews where candidates don't have the skills you need.

  • Measure your interview feedback. If possible, it's important to structure your interview feedback process so that the feedback is measurable. This way, you can find the best candidate for your company because the feedback will make the choice clear.

  • Sustainability. Sustainability is an essential element of competency-based recruiting. In other words, you need to actively ensure that your employees maintain and grow their skills throughout their tenure. As a member of your community, you can also build a talent pipeline from schools and employment foundations in your community from which you could recruit in the future.

The Bottom line

If you want to hire the best candidates faster while reducing your time to full productivity, you need to invest in a competency-based hiring process. As a bonus, you'll also improve your employee retention and significantly lower your employee turnover. Isn't that worth it?


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