January 17, 2023

Skills-based hiring is the future: How to get started today

As more organizations realize the benefits of hiring based on skills possessed rather than positions held, the future of talent acquisition will look very different. Author and futurist Alexandra Levit shares insights on why resume-based hiring is outdated and tips for how to transition to skills-based hiring.

A few weeks ago, I attended a dinner where some colleagues emphatically insisted that the future of hiring could not and would not become skills-based until organizations stopped selecting people based on educational pedigree.

I pointed out that this is already happening. When I graduated from college in the late 1990s, you had to have a bachelor’s degree to get an entry-level professional position. It didn’t matter what skills you had. Today, depending on the role, if you can show skill competency, many organizations will overlook a lack of formal education.

The real question is: Have we moved the needle enough to combat ever-increasing global labour shortages? The answer may indeed be no, and that’s likely because there’s no sense of urgency. Many organizations still think the traditional mode of hiring – via resumes and follow-up, subjective interviewing – works just fine.

Let’s look at the problems with the status quo and how your organization can reap the rewards from a new approach to talent acquisition. Skills-based hiring will be the future, but there’s no time like the present to move in that direction.

The trouble with resume-based hiring

Resume-based hiring has a variety of flaws, namely that people are notoriously bad at self-assessment. A resume only captures a small amount of what a person has done and can do. And even if their skills are presented somewhat effectively, the hiring manager may be negatively influenced by factors like what font the candidate used and whether too many words are crammed onto the page.

Resumes (and LinkedIn profiles) also capture just one moment in time. This means that unless a hiring manager is reviewing information that was just sent to them by a candidate for a specific job, the hiring manager has no idea how current the information is.

Finally, resume-based hiring assumes that the organization wants to hire someone for a static role. The hiring manager wants to see straightforward evidence that the candidate has already performed this role because they aren’t expecting it to change much. But this is an outdated view of jobs. Today, employers must approach hiring with career flexibility in mind.

Organizations need to hire people with as deep of a skills bench as possible so that those employees can move fluidly through the organization as business requirements evolve. It's hard to assess how well someone will be able to do this from a resume.

But if an organization isn’t going to hire employees based on resumes and wants to get to the heart of the skills candidates possess today, how can this be achieved?

How to get started with skills-based hiring

I’ll readily admit that skills-based hiring is a difficult task without technology, and specifically, without artificial intelligence. But new talent intelligence platforms allow organizations to leverage career data points to paint a much broader picture of the skills a given individual might have. Talent intelligence tools also allow organizations to focus on the skills necessary for success within a particular career path, which might not always be what human hiring managers think they are.

This technology is especially good at uncovering skill adjacencies. Using skill adjacency, you can infer that a person who is good at skill A often excels at skill B. For example, we can infer that someone who is good at trigonometry is probably also good at geometry. Or we could guess that an experienced marketing professional could more quickly learn public relations.

The rise of the flexible career experience

Download the research to learn what your employees really want out of their careers, and actionable steps you can take to reimagine career experiences at your organization.

Read the report

For recruiters who are accustomed to resume-based hiring, this is a whole new world. For example, when a company is hiring for a customer service manager, a recruiter may search for candidates with resumes containing that exact title. Until recently, we simply have not had the tools to surface candidates who may have the right customer skills based on their life experiences instead of the positions they’ve held.

By focusing on workers’ capabilities rather than exact job titles, companies can build a broader pool of diverse, qualified candidates. This is an especially useful approach post-pandemic, given that most workers accumulated a wide variety of transferable skills inside and outside their main jobs in the areas of communication, problem solving, and adaptability. Skills like this support success in any role but may not be found on these candidates’ resumes, so it’s wise to have another way to account for and assess them.

In short, hiring based on educational pedigree and resumes is the past while hiring based on skills and potential is the future. And technology can go a long way to help us transform hiring practices – both culturally and operationally.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit is an author, consultant, speaker, and workplace expert. She has written several career advice books, and was formerly a nationally syndicated career columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Alexandra is currently a partner at organizational development firm PeopleResults.

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