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Skills-First Hiring to Become Gold Standard for Recruiting

If you’re a recruiter, you’ve likely had to play the skills vs. experience game before. If you’re smart, you probably chose the applicant with all the relevant skills — even if they don’t have the experience.

This is a very untraditional way of hiring, but it’s becoming more and more prevalent. According to LinkedIn’s 2023 Future of Recruiting Report, skills-first hiring will soon become the gold standard for recruiting.

Since 2019, LinkedIn recruiter searches that include a skills filter have grown by 25%. Today, recruiters are 50% more likely to search by skills than they are to search by years of experience. 75% of recruiting pros predict that skills-first hiring will be their company’s priority in the next 18 months.

What’s Skills-First Hiring?

Skills-first hiring is just what it sounds like. It’s when recruiters prioritize skills over anything else when looking for applicants.

For example, say you’re a recruiter looking for an entry-level software programmer. You’re looking at two different applicants. One just graduated from a prominent technical college with a BS in Software Development but only knows a few programming languages, and aside from an internship at a tech company, has worked on no relevant projects. 

Then, you have an applicant who’s taught themselves ten programming languages online, has worked on several relevant coding projects in their free time, and has been working on improving their coding portfolio nonstop. What’s your decision?

If you’re more inclined to choose the first applicant, you think more traditionally. Recruiters who’d prefer the second applicant are more focused on skills first. While the first applicant has a degree and some experience, the second applicant is more than qualified since they have the relevant skills, work ethic, and projects.

Why is Skills-First Hiring Necessary?

Skills-based hiring helps negate the disconnect between the classroom and the office, especially in tech jobs. While some schools have advanced technical programs that keep up to date with the fast-changing industry, many schools teach tech basics that may have already been eclipsed by a new, better software or system that modern tech companies are using. This can cause a skill gap in industries where new employees aren’t up-to-date with companies’ technology.

Not to mention that access to higher education isn’t equal. Discrimination continues in the higher education system, and the costs only rise, preventing many working-class people from pursuing degrees.

Discrimination and rising costs significantly limit the talent pool if you only focus on the degree and experience of an applicant. 

Instead, if you focus on an applicant’s skills, your scope of potential applicants is broader, as those skills can be gained outside of a traditional degree setting.

Skills-First Hiring Best Practices

Here are some best practices you can use if you decide to pursue skills-first hiring:

  1. Write down the exact skills required for the position. Does the applicant need to have specific skills? Do they need to know a particular coding language or a particular software? Do they need to have a specific skill?
  2. Don’t look at a degree as the end-all-be-all of skill acquisition. While a degree can prepare an employee for a job in the industry, it isn’t the only way to acquire those skills, and it’s not a guarantee they’re the right fit for the job.
  3. Don’t dismiss online learning. There are so many resources nowadays for prospective industry professionals to teach themselves the tools of the trade. These can be just as valuable or even more valuable than a degree or experience.
  4. Invest in your employees’ growth and future. Help them to continue learning, even once you’ve already hired them. This can only help them and your company grow, increasing employee retention.
  5. Don’t be afraid to look outside your industry. Since you’re not focusing on the degree or experience, you don’t necessarily need to look in one talent pool. Don’t be afraid to look outside your usual recruitment circles to find skilled people who may be in a different industry but who may have relevant talents anyway.

Following these practices and focusing on skill-based recruitment can broaden your talent pool and help create a more equitable labor market where jobs are based on skills and talent rather than an expensive degree. This doesn’t mean you ignore degrees or experience ultimately — it means you attract more candidates who are just as capable.

Want to hear more about skills-first hiring and get tips on implementing it into your hiring process? Check out our latest webinar, Unlocking Hidden Talent: Revolutionize Your Recruitment with Skill-Based Hiring.