Why Skills-First Hiring Is Better Than Traditional Hiring Models

One of the keys to successful hiring is using the skills-first approach. It makes sure the job is a mutual benefit for both the candidate and employer.

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Why Skills-First Hiring Is Better Than Traditional Hiring Models

The pandemic made organizations all around the country rethink their hiring strategies. With labor shortages happening in conjunction with the great resignation, it started a necessary change by shifting to skills-first hiring that has already begun to benefit companies and employers everywhere.

However, this skills-first hiring is not a new concept. In fact, it’s been something that’s been discussed since the declining employment market in 2010. However, since it’s now resurfaced as a buzzword and concept in 2022, it’s essential that you know the difference between the traditional and skills-first hiring methods.

Skills-first vs. traditional hiring

Traditional hiring focuses on credentials and degrees. It also puts a heavy emphasis on an applicant’s previous work experience.

Skills-first hiring is an alternative to traditional hiring models that focuses on candidates’ skills rather than their past experience. It allows companies to grow by bringing in new skill sets and perspectives.

We’ve outlined a few key differences in the table below:

Comparing skills-first to traditional hiring

Skills-first hiring Traditional hiring
Focuses on candidate's ability to do the job and de-emphasizes education Focuses on necessary qualifications to perform well in the role they are applying for
Values demonstrated skills and competencies Values bachelor's degree or MBA
Gives opportunities for a wide range of candidates Limits candidate pool to specific requirements
Places emphasis on skills testing during the interview process Emphasizes experience, references, and achievements
Focuses on potential through development Focuses on past track record

What’s causing the shift?

It’s important to understand how we got to this point as a working society. Degree requirements have been a considerable requirement over the past two decades – especially between the years of 2010-2017. This is mostly because more and more Americans were attending college, which caused employers to increase degree requirements listings by 10%.

This somehow set a precedent that those who earned a degree were more job-ready than those without one. However, in a study conducted by Harvard Business School, employers admitted that there was not a significant difference between the productivity levels of those who have a degree and those who don’t. In fact, 63% of them said degree requirements made it very hard to fill positions.

The pandemic was a great time for companies to test this theory out as they were having trouble filling positions due to the great resignation. Some trade workers also lost their jobs due to the pandemic, forcing them to hop into a new industry. Therefore, the need for skills-based hiring has become more critical than ever.

Benefits of a skill-based recruitment strategy

Skills-first hiring is a recruitment strategy that focuses on a candidate’s ability to do the job rather than basing decisions solely on their past experience. This approach is known for hiring for:

  • Potential
  • Attitude
  • Culture fit

A study conducted by Harvard Business School, employers admitted that there was not a significant difference between the productivity levels of those who have a degree and those who don’t.

The shift of losing these degree and experience requirements has yielded some incredible results for companies nationwide. Below are a few to consider.

Building a diverse workforce

When an organization limits itself to traditional hiring practices, there’s potential for unconscious bias to happen during the process.

Foregoing traditional hiring methods allows you to remove any potential biases from your hiring and enables you to tap into a wider talent pool. This is a win-win scenario as you’ll gain more perspectives in your workplace and demonstrate that you are dedicated to your DEI goals.

What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve

Answer to see the results

Full candidate evaluation before officially hiring

We’ve all heard stories or even experienced having a candidate who was absolutely amazing during the interview and hiring process. However, they were lackluster at best when it came time for them to perform.

One popular element of skills-first hiring is assessments. These tests often list out questions to demonstrate what a candidate would do in a particular situation within the role. They also help you determine:

  • Soft skills
  • What motivates them
  • If they are a good culture fit

These evaluations are highly customizable as well. This way, you’ll know how much impact the candidate will make upon hiring them and what areas they need to work on.

Some things that are covered in skills-first hiring might also include:

  • Building a presentation or proposal
  • Presenting
  • Creating a plan or budget
  • Critiquing something
  • Role-playing

No more wasted time

In traditional hiring models, a candidate’s skill set isn’t evaluated until the later part of the hiring process. However, in the skills-first method, it’s at the forefront, HR professionals will no longer waste their time just to find out the candidate isn’t qualified or the right fit. They’ll know within the first conversation or skill assessment.

A skills-based approach is going to attract top-tier talent.

With that, in combination with a broader talent pool, companies can experience accelerated hire times by first honing in on the skillset.

Employees are more likely to stay long-term

One of the keys to successful hiring is using the skills-first approach. It makes sure the job is a mutual benefit for both the candidate and employer. By asking prospective candidates to demonstrate their skills, they’re already aware of what the job will consist of. Therefore, it’s easy for them to know if the position is one they’re comfortable doing long-term.

Transparency of what the job actually requires will allow a candidate to be excited about the future and what they are going to take on. This also shows a candidate what their performance evaluation will be based on.

Making the shift to skills-first hiring

All of these changes can’t be made overnight, so it’s important to take baby steps in the right direction to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Start with your current job descriptions

Take a look at the jobs you’ve recently filled or those that are currently posted. Evaluate the focus of the description as a whole. Is it more focused on skills or past achievements?

If you find that the job description is leaning more towards traditional hiring requirements, it might be time to rewrite it and reset the focus to a skills and potential focus.

Evaluate your turnover

If you have a job that is frequently vacant, it might be time to evaluate why people are leaving. Maybe the job description doesn’t align with what someone in that position would like to be doing – or worse, is expected to do.

Gather the exit interview notes from the last few people who’ve been in the position and see if there are any common themes.

Continue to stay organized

A skills-based approach is going to attract top-tier talent. It’s essential to move fast in an extremely competitive job market. Giving your candidates and new hires the best possible seamless experience is crucial during these times.

With Zenefits, you can save your new hires time with our online, mobile-friendly, and all-in-one-place – our hiring & onboarding software. It offers self-onboarding for employees and visibility into every step of the onboarding process for admins. A win-win for you and your employees.

Curious to learn more? See how it works.

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