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Skill-Based Hiring: Recruit the Right Talent the First Time

Skill-Based Hiring: Recruit the Right Talent the First Time

In the early 2000s, an increasing number of organizations began adding four-year degree requirements to their job postings—in many cases, even if the job description had not changed. But recent changes in the current competitive hiring market have led many companies to reconsider degree requirements in favor of skill-based hiring.

While there is certainly value in a traditional college education, a four-year degree does not guarantee an applicant’s quality. Read on to find out how you can implement skill-based hiring practices to help you select applicants with not only the right knowledge, but also the skills and experience truly necessary to do the job well.


Writing a Skill-Based Job Listing

With the wealth of career boards available on sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, the job listing may be the first contact applicants have with your organization, so it needs to make a great first impression and immediately draw in skilled candidates. Here are some tips for crafting an effective job posting:

  • Separate requirements from preferences. Distinguishing between “need-to-have” and “nice-to-have” qualities can help you widen your potential talent pool. Limit hard requirements to absolute necessities like certifications, hard skills, or location—since many people, especially women, may only apply for a job if they feel they meet 100% of the requirements.
  • Get managers involved. Ideally, the hiring manager for the position should write the job description, as they should know best what skills are truly needed to perform well. HR’s role should be to coach managers in best practices and ensure compliance while the managers ultimately determine the scope and skill of the posted position.
  • Make degree requirements flexible. In some roles, a specialized degree may be necessary, but realistically, most positions require a set of skills that can be learned either in the classroom, on the job, or through independent study. Be as open as possible about degree expectations by moving them from required to preferred, considering a wide range of fields, or noting that appropriate experience can stand in for a formal degree. 
  • Note relevant perks. Strong candidates with nontraditional backgrounds likely know the value of learning beyond the classroom. If your organization offers professional development opportunities, continuing education benefits, or other similar perks, be sure to let applicants know on the posting. 


Using Skill-Based Screening Techniques

Once you have a pool of applicants, you need to efficiently determine which candidates have the skill sets and values that match your organization’s needs. That’s where screening assessments come in.

  • Give select candidates an assignment. Since assigning screening tasks too early in the process can be a deterrent to busy applicants, we recommend asking for a work sample only from those who have already passed an initial phone interview. Make this assignment directly related to the role’s job duties, and to keep the process moving, make it something the applicant can complete in a few focused hours.
  • Choose tasks over portfolios. While portfolios have value, the only way to truly determine whether a candidate can perform the job responsibilities is to ask them to do so. Portfolios can also be unhelpful as some candidates may by chance present more relevant work than others.
  • Consistency is key. To avoid recruiting biases, make sure you give all the candidates for the role the same assignment. This will make it easier for you to evaluate each candidate’s skill set fairly.

Assessing Skills in a Face-to-Face Interview

The final step in skill-based hiring is the face-to-face interview, bringing each of your top few candidates into the office for a live conversation. This gives both them and you an opportunity to ask any remaining questions, and it lets them discuss and explain the choices they made in completing the skills assessment you assigned. 

In a face-to-face interview, you can get a sense of how well the candidate understands the assignment they completed, and you can explain how that type of work fits into the overall role for which they’re applying. 

By the end of this process, you’ll have a great sense of which candidates are most likely to actually be able to do the work that your open position requires—whether they have the exact college credentials you were imagining or not.


Additional Resources

You can stay informed, educated, and up-to-date on best practices for hiring and other important HR topics using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news
  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance
  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics
  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics

Register Now for HR Hiring Guide CE Course

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