The Future of Hiring is Skills-Based


Debra Timmerman

Vice President, MSP Solutions, Direct Sourcing, Career Transitions and Executive Coaching

It’s time to stop putting people in boxes and start to see what they’re really capable of.

The past twelve months have changed the way that many of us think about work. 2020 marked the decline of the commute, the rise of remote working, and the start of a broader conversation about what it means to go to work. These changes have seen many organizations rethink the way they connect with the people they need, and one of the ideas that has returned to the spotlight is skills-based hiring.

Skills-based hiring is a growing movement to stop putting people into boxes based on job titles and education, and instead to understand who they are, where their skills lie, what they like to do, and how these skills can be leveraged across many areas of a business. It’s not only a way to access a wider talent pool, but to put people at the center of the hiring process.

Why change the way you hire?

Competition for talent is fierce. Recruiting decisions requiring specific job titles, previous employers, or college could actively prevent you from accessing a huge pool of valuable talent. By putting the emphasis on skills, you can widen your talent search both internally and externally, meaning you don’t see sales or marketing or operations people rather a wide network of skillsets that can plug into your business where need is greatest.

Hiring for capability can also boost your workforce agility and allow you to reshape your current workforce effectively to pivot quickly to new scenarios – something that 2020 has taught us is an essential organizational strength. Understanding the skills inside your business and being able to react effectively to changing conditions will put you ahead of the pack.

Retention is another important benefit of this hiring approach. People enjoy doing what they’re good at, so matching someone with a role based on their skills and passion will boost job satisfaction and drive retention. It can also give people a wider variety of experiences within a single organization, rather than hemming them into a narrow career track. People are increasingly searching for experience-based careers over decades in a single role. Taking a skills-focused view removes barriers to in-house movement, keeping careers feeling fresh.

How do you make skills-based hiring a reality?

Hiring for skills may sound like a good idea, but how do you bring it to life? For many organizations, this requires not just changes in process, but a real change in mindset. It’s moving beyond resume keyword scanning and selecting candidates who ‘look good on paper’ to diving into candidates' experience and capabilities to understand what skills they bring to the table. This requires change at every stage of the hiring process, from how roles are advertised and candidates selected to how people are assessed during the interview process. Behavioral and scenario-based interviewing can help hiring managers and recruiters begin to see where candidates’ strengths lie and empower organizations to select people who aren’t just good at the traditional interview process but who can bring meaningful skills to a role.

But for it to really take hold, there has to be a re-education for people involved in every part of the recruitment chain, from hiring managers to candidates. Recruiting and staffing agencies are well placed to drive this change. They advise organizations on how to effectively advertise for skills-based roles and analyze candidate capabilities while helping candidates to shout about the skills that help them stand out.

How does hiring for skills impact people? 

Skills-based hiring doesn’t only offer benefits for organizations; it can represent a huge opportunity for highly-capable candidates who might not fit traditional molds. By focusing on capabilities rather than credentials, it can level the playing field for people who may not have had the economic resources to attend a top college or participate in higher education. It can help people who have served in the military and don’t have a traditional resume. It can help to increase gender, racial, socioeconomic, and other types of diversity. Simply, this type of hiring opens doors rather than closing them, and that’s something we can’t afford to overlook.

Hiring for skills can also have a meaningful impact on job satisfaction; it gives people a deeper sense of purpose through roles that are a better match for their skills and interests and helps to prevent the burnout that often comes with working in a role that was never quite the right fit.

What’s next?  

Skills-based hiring is not a new idea, but adoption is still low. By becoming an early advocate, you can increase your share of great talent and stand out in a competitive marketplace. Our direct sourcing solution helps organizations build deep pools of known talent, tracked by skillset, not job title. It’s a great way to jump into skills-focused hiring without building and implementing new recruitment policies and processes from scratch.

I believe this type of hiring has a significant role to play in the future of work and is an essential shift for organizations in order to keep up with an accelerating pace of change across all industries. If you’d like to chat about hiring for skills or any other aspect of workforce strategy, please drop me a line – I’d love to connect.



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