How Skills-Based Hiring Can Help You Hire The Right People

June 26, 2024

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Are you finding it difficult to attract and retain quality employees, despite screening for specific education and experience requirements?

Skills-based hiring can help you hire the right people by focusing on a candidate’s skills, rather than their education and work experience. Skills-based hires can be a great asset to your company.

Read on to learn more about skills-based hiring, the pros and cons, and how you can start incorporating skills-based hiring into your hiring practices.

What is Skills-Based Hiring?

Skills-based hiring is the practice of attracting new talent based on specific skills they have that are relevant to the position for which they are applying. This is in contrast with degree or experience hiring that screens prospective employees according to their educational background or a specific number of years of experience.

For example, let’s say you are hiring a new content marketer. Traditionally, you may list requirements such as: “bachelor’s degree in marketing or similar degree” or “3-5 years of experience.” If you were using skills-based hiring, however, you would not list a degree or a certain amount of experience as a requirement. Instead, you may list requirements such as “strong writing and editing skills,” or “ability to research and distill information.”

When you use skills-based hiring, you can ensure that prospects have the skills they need for the job as well as attract prospects with non-traditional work and education experiences.

Pros and Cons of Skills-Based Hiring

Skills-based hiring is a great way to attract high quality prospects, but there are some reasons why employers stick to traditional experience-based hiring.

Let’s look at some pros and cons of skills-based hiring that can help you determine whether it’s a viable hiring strategy for your business.

Pros of skills-based hiring

With skills-based hiring, you can really drill down on exactly what the business needs and focus on hiring people who have the specific skills to fill those gaps. It will also help you assess which skills are a must to fill the position, and which are just good to have.

Crafting a detailed job description that precisely outlines the required skills helps align expectations with the position. This leads to better job performance, and overall happier employees because their role accurately reflects the outlined expectations.

Writing a more specific job description means more input from the direct hiring manager who knows best what kind of skills they need someone to walk in the door with, and what skills can be easily taught on the job. For example, if you’re hiring an architect, it may be less important that they have experience using a very specific piece of software your company uses, and more important that they have experience in designing the kind of buildings your firm specializes in.

Skills-based hiring can also widen your talent pool by considering prospects who may not have traditional education or career experiences. We all have unconscious biases, including hiring managers. These biases may lead to hiring managers assuming a degree from a prestigious academic institution means that person could do the job better than someone who couldn’t afford a college degree but has hands-on skills and is highly coachable.

Although they may not have specific accolades on paper, these prospects can nevertheless be highly skilled and a great fit for the job. Expanding your talent pool can be especially important for highly specific jobs where you probably need to provide a good deal of training for the new hire, no matter how much experience they have.

Let’s say, you’re hiring an IT manager in the healthcare sector. Someone who has a computer science degree and 2 years of IT experience at a real estate office may be less suitable than a candidate who has no college degree, but 5 years of IT experience in healthcare. This is because the healthcare niche has specialized IT requirements, and someone without that specific experience would likely need a lot more training to get up to speed.

Lastly, research has shown that employees hired based on their skills stay 9% longer than their peers, and are promoted at the same rate.

Cons of skills-based hiring

Skills-based hiring does a great job of attracting qualified prospects, so why doesn’t everyone do it?

The biggest challenge of skills-based hiring is that it requires a lot of time, and effort. When you are receiving hundreds of applications for one position, it’s important to find a way to quickly screen resumes that aren’t relevant for the position. Many companies rely on AI-driven resume screening software that automatically rejects resumes that don’t include certain keywords or academic degree criteria.

When you are applying skills-based hiring, using automated software is more difficult. After all, if you’re using a less rigid set of requirements for the position, how do you efficiently screen irrelevant applications?

When you practice skills-based hiring, you may have to redesign your application process to ask more questions about skills, and give prospects the opportunity to prove they have the skill level you are looking for. You may need to interview more candidates as a result. All of that requires more time, and review.

Luckily, there are some ways that you can incorporate skills-based hiring practices into your hiring process without having to manually sift through hundreds of resumes.

3 Ways to Incorporate Skills-Based Hiring

You don’t have to change every aspect of your hiring process in order to start assessing prospects based more on skills than experience. Here are some relatively small changes you can make to attract prospects with the skills you need:

#1 Allow for substitutions 

You may consider accepting relevant experience as an alternative to a college degree. For example, you could write, “A degree in marketing or journalism. One year of related work experience may replace one year of education.”

This allows you to attract highly qualified prospects who have more experience but not a formal education.

On the other hand, you can let a degree replace some years of work experience. This can be especially useful for positions that don’t demand as many hard skills but rely on important soft skills that are often acquired by attending college. For example, someone with a Master’s degree in Sociology may have no job experience in marketing, but has some of the valuable skills that could make them a good candidate – including strong writing skills, research skills, and data analysis.

#2 Don’t auto-reject screened resumes

You may need to rely on automated resume screening because you simply don’t have time to manually review all resumes. That’s okay. But you can still consider skills by not rejecting resumes that the software flags as unsuitable.

Instead, keep them as a resource if you’re unable to find suitable candidates from the pool of accepted resumes.

#3 Adjust the words you screen for 

Automated resume screening doesn’t have to be at odds with a skills-based hiring approach. Instead of setting your software to recognize words that speak to a person’s academic experience (like “Bachelor’s” or “degree”), focus on skills-based terms.

For example, if you’re hiring an executive assistant, you likely want somebody who is highly organized, personable, and responsible. You can configure the settings on your resume screener to recognize those words, and that way you get a pool of applicants who have those skills, even if some of them do not have degrees or have not worked as an executive assistant before.

Simplify hiring with Commonwealth Payroll & HR

CommPayHR’s Attract & Hire solution can help you streamline employee sourcing and new employee onboarding, so you can have more time to apply a skills-based approach to hiring.

With Attract & Hire you can customize applications and interview questions, and conduct interviews all on one platform. You can even integrate background checks and assessments.

Want to find customized hiring solutions that work for your business? Contact us. We have a solution that will allow you to turn every step of your recruiting process into an efficient and seamless experience.


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