As the world of work continues to evolve, so too must the way organizations evaluate talent. Traditional evaluation criteria like education and prior job titles still have a place in hiring, promotion and succession-planning processes. However, organizations that consider transferrable skills first have the opportunity to screen in talent that they may not have otherwise considered, creating a substantial advantage in the proverbial war for talent.
A skills-first approach to talent evaluation means that, instead of focusing on an applicant's pedigree, organizations first assess an individual's skill set and potential. I assert that by 2028, demonstrable, transferrable skills will overtake prior job titles and education as leading qualifiers in the hiring and promotion processes for one-half of organizations. This allows a broader range of internal and external applicants to be considered for open positions, something that will be critical to organizations’ success as the labor pool continues to shrink and the skills-gap widens.
This shift in hiring practices began with the widely publicized elimination of the degree requirement by several high-profile companies like Google, Apple and IBM. Facing a dearth of talent and often homogenous applicant pools, these organizations can now attract candidates from a much more diverse pool of talent, many of whom did not have the privilege or desire for a 4-year education but are equally skilled through self-teaching, certification courses or boot camps. In addition, existing non-degreed workers are being upskilled to meet future talent demand. This is a boon for employers that may struggle to retain top performers who express a desire and aptitude for new career paths but may have been previously blocked based on the lack of a degree. With numerous studies concluding there is no measurable difference in performance between degreed and non-degreed workers in the same role, focusing on skills and aptitude rather than a degree seems like an obvious shift in hiring style for many roles.
Beyond nixing the degree requirement, organizations are recognizing that skills come from a variety of jobs and experiences beyond just like-job titles in a predetermined career path. Skills ontology software is helping organizations identify candidates who may be well-suited for a role based on skills garnered from prior experience that may not otherwise be apparent from reviewing a resumé. Skills like leadership, project management, negotiation, time-management and customer success can be required and mastered in any number of roles, disciplines and industries, whether or not those specific terms have ever appeared in someone’s job title. Evaluating candidates by comparing skills required in prior experiences to those necessary for an open role leads to better democratization and diversification of the hiring process than does just reviewing education or job titles.
Finally, skills assessment is another tool organizations are using at the top of the funnel to short-list candidates, even before education or experience are evaluated. Consider the case of two candidates for a sales leadership position: Based on job titles and education, both are equally qualified. Upon interviewing, its discovered that Candidate A has a better overall sales track record than Candidate B, regularly exceeding quota and being recognized for her negotiation and closing skills, while Candidate B has generally met and sometimes exceeded his targets. Upon assessment, it becomes clear that Candidate A thrives as an individual contributor, and while she is able to lead teams effectively, she is more personally fulfilled when she acts alone, making her a less-than-ideal candidate for a leadership position despite her personal successes. Meanwhile, Candidate B thrives in a team environment, where the success of the whole is valued over that of the individual. He is happiest in a coaching role, helping others achieve their greatest potential. Candidate B is much more likely to be successful and fulfilled in a leadership role than Candidate A. In cases like this, prior performance is not always the best predictor of future success, particularly if one is able to perform a job but isn’t particularly fulfilled by it.
When that assessment is applied at the top of the funnel, the organization saves time and screens candidates who may not otherwise be considered but have the leadership abilities and desire to best perform the role. If a strong sales background and specific education are still preferred, recruiters could then look to experience and degree as secondary characteristics from the pool of already-qualified applicants.
Clearly, experience and education are still valuable considerations in the talent evaluation process. No one is going to hire a self-taught surgeon who is reasonably sure she would thrive in an operating room environment. But the fact is, there are myriad roles for which skills can be garnered outside of a classroom that are transferrable and valuable beyond a specific job title. Organizations that want to expand and diversify qualified talent pools would benefit from looking first at skills, aptitude and desire to screen candidates that may not otherwise be considered. The willingness and ability to shift long-held paradigms that put degrees and traditional career paths at the top of the list of qualifying criteria will give organizations a competitive advantage in talent selection.