As organizations look at broader measures of competence over traditional university degrees, skills may prove to be a viable alternative. Measurable skills like coding, problem solving, team management, and critical thinking, amongst others, are paving the way for a more inclusive approach to hiring. So, what does skills-based hiring look like?

Essentially, skill-based hiring focuses on a candidate’s capabilities rather than educational qualifications. Traditional hiring practices emphasize where and what degree a candidate holds, equating qualification to skill. However, having specific qualifications is not necessarily an accurate measure. Removing degree requirements opens up the talent pool to non-traditional candidates, reduces time to hire, and promotes diversity and inclusion.

In this article, we examine how employers can scale their skill-based hiring efforts via communication, technology, and job-fit assessments.

How to Go About Skills-based Hiring on Job Boards

  • Begin with job descriptions

Job descriptions are more than just a way to attract applicants – they are a guide to understanding the role, responsibilities, and tasks of employees and departments of the organization. If you are planning to adopt a skills-based hiring approach, this is where you start!

When crafting your job descriptions, think about skills – not qualifications. This enables transparent communication, allowing recruiters and candidates to set expectations for the position.

It’s important to gather feedback from employees who are already in the role. Conduct interviews or surveys to identify the key skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to perform the job effectively. This will help you create a comprehensive list of the competencies required for success in the role.

Once you have identified the competencies, use competency-based language to describe the job responsibilities and requirements. Avoid using generic or vague terms and instead, use specific, action-oriented language that clearly communicates the expected outcomes. For example, instead of saying “must have good communication skills,” say “must be able to communicate complex information clearly and effectively to different audiences.”

To communicate the level of proficiency required for each competency, use a rating system such as beginner, intermediate, and advanced, or use a numeric scale. This will help candidates understand the level of experience and skill required for the role.

Finally, ensure that the job description is clear, concise, and easy to understand. Use bullet points to break up long paragraphs, and include only the most essential information. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that may not be familiar to all candidates.

Last, and most important, don’t forget to use inclusive language. For example, avoid gender-coded words like ‘ambitious,’ ‘fearless,’ ‘dominant,’ ‘understanding,’ etc., or terms like ‘digital native’ that promote ageism in your job descriptions. Inclusive language makes candidates feel welcome, encourages individuals from historically underrepresented communities to apply, and aids in creating an inclusive workplace.

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  • Job-fit and skills assessments

Despite the many benefits of skill-based hiring, companies are often stumped when it comes to measuring a candidate’s skill set. According to traditional hiring methods, having a degree is associated with having the prerequisite skills for the job, but that is not always the case. So, how do you evaluate a candidate’s skills to make an informed hiring decision, especially while hiring at scale?

One effective approach is to use skills-based interviews, where you ask candidates to demonstrate their skills and abilities through hypothetical scenarios or practical tasks. You can also ask behavioral-based questions that focus on their past experiences and accomplishments. This gives you a chance to assess their critical thinking skills, problem-solving ability, and how well they can adapt to different situations.

Another approach is to check references provided by the candidate. This allows you to verify their skills and job fit by asking about their past job responsibilities, strengths, and areas for improvement. Additionally, you can use trial periods to assess how well candidates perform in the actual job and how they interact with the team. And, asking candidates to provide examples of their work, such as a portfolio or project samples, can also help you assess their skills and see if their style aligns with the company’s culture.

Newer artificial intelligence-based (AI) skills assessment solutions can help you replicate this process at scale. And not only for technical skills – AI solutions can also assess soft skills using natural language processing based on candidate responses.

  • Optimize your tech stack to screen for skills

In today’s fast-paced market, manually screening candidate resumes and job applications is nearly impossible. It is time-consuming and prone to human errors. However, you can complete this task quickly and effectively using your applicant tracking systems (ATS), candidate relationship management (CRM), or resume screening software. But before you get started, you must (re)train your tech solutions to look for skills.

Since traditional hiring methods place undue emphasis on pedigree and qualifications, your ATS or other tools are tuned to use those hiring criteria. But you can train these solutions to screen for skills instead. Candidate screening is often the first of the hiring stages, and candidates with unusual backgrounds are likely to be rejected by the old systems. By teaching your screening tools to assess skills, candidates from diverse backgrounds and experiences can join your talent pool. For instance, resume screening programs can be coded to remove any identifying information (“blind hiring”) from the received resumes and sort them based on skills only. This ensures that unconscious biases related to educational qualifications or institutions are avoided.

  • Display job ads to the right audience 

When adopting a skill-based hiring strategy, it is equally crucial to display your job ad to the right audience.

Use  social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to target job ads.  Programmatic recruitment advertising platforms can help you automate job posting based on audience relevance.

Industry events and job fairs can be great places to find skilled candidates. These events provide an opportunity for job seekers to learn about different companies and job opportunities, and for employers to meet potential candidates face-to-face. By developing these events, you can connect with candidates who are passionate about your industry and have the skills you’re looking for. This can help you build a pipeline of potential candidates for your current and future hiring needs.

Your current employees and industry connections can also be a big help. Encourage them to refer candidates who have the skills you’re looking for, and offer incentives like bonuses or time off to employees who refer successful hires. This way, you can reach a wider pool of potential candidates and get referrals from trusted sources.

Lastly, try reaching out to industry-specific groups and associations. For example, if you’re looking for a skilled software developer, look for local software development groups or associations. This is a great way to connect with potential candidates who have the skills you need and are interested in your industry.

Moving Away from Degree Inflation

Employers are gradually moving away from hiring based on educational qualifications and towards skill-based hiring. The approach recognizes the fact that qualifications do not necessarily translate to skill and that there are various ways of developing competence. Skill-based hiring opens the talent pool to candidates from non-traditional backgrounds, increasing diversity while reducing hiring time and cost.

When incorporating skill-based hiring measures on job boards, begin by modifying and improving your job descriptions. Highlighting skills and responsibilities and using inclusive language will help attract skilled candidates. Simultaneously, use skill and job–fit assessments to filter and move appropriate candidates through the hiring pipeline. Finally, leverage your hiring tech stack to sort candidates for skill and programmatically display your job ad to reach the suitable candidates.

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