Why we should hire for skills rather than pedigree
Skill-Based Hiring: Redefining the Candidate
We are stuck in traditional ways of recruiting without the data to support or justify it. We hire for degrees or schools or experience rather than for the contribution a person could make to our organization.
We, defined as the recruiter and the hiring manager and maybe senior leadership, assume that to be successful candidates must meet several criteria before they can be offered a position.
The hiring manager decides what degrees, skills, and experience a candidate must have. This is almost always based on historical precedent and decided with no objective data to support it. I have never met a hiring manager who could empirically show me that a degree or a certain level of experience made any difference to the productivity or ability of the employee.
In addition, anyone lacking even one of the many requirements is often rejected by the recruiter (or screened out by software trained by a recruiter) and never gets an interview or an opportunity to speak with the hiring manager. For example, if someone is lacking a year or so of experience, she is likely to be rejected, or if she has an irrelevant degree or no degree.
And finally, we have for the last few years been obsessively focused on culture fit. What this translates to is very often bias. We unconsciously or consciously are most attracted to people that think, speak, and even look like us. There is nothing wrong with those traits, but when there is no diversity there is groupthink and uniformity that stifles innovation.
To further support the argument that many of the required criteria are overrated is the simple fact that allowing employees to move internally has become very popular. Many of those who have transferred do not have the experience or the proper educational background for the position. Yet they have been successful. Firms such as IBM, GE, J&J, and others, have always focused on transferring or promoting within and providing internal training, development, or coaching where needed.
We know that most of what anyone knows about a job is learned on the job. Informal and experiential learning are the primary ways that people achieve excellence and increase productivity. When we hire someone, we are hiring potential and a skill or set of skills knowing that the person will learn the job and continue to learn and develop.
Perhaps, rather than focus on credentials, we should adopt these guidelines.
#1. Hire for experience in doing something related to what the work requires. For example, if you are hiring for a software company, hire someone who self-learned coding or has written an app. If you are in human resources, perhaps someone who has worked with seniors or kids or who has shown empathy for and has experience in working with people. As Ginnie Rometty, Chairman of IBM says, “Do away with specific college requirements and focus on a “skills-first” hiring approach. ”
#2. Look at a person’s potential. Are they motivated to learn, do they have a pattern of learning new things and experimenting? Do they read? Are they curious? These are better indicators of future success than a degree,
#3. Look for agility and flexibility. Have they shown that they can thrive in different situations? Have they faced adversity and overcome it? Do they have determination and a “can do” attitude?
#4. Do they have confidence in their abilities and are they eager for the job? Are they excited? This is why active candidates might be better than passive ones as they have shown interest in your organization. Often motivation is far more important than lazy expertise.
#5. To bring in diversity and to assess capability, create and hire from apprenticeship or internship pools. And hire internally from those employees who are known and who have motivation.
In this time of chaotic change, we should also change the way we think about job requirements and open up to a broader and more diverse set of employees.
Related & Interesting Links
Companies often use a bachelor’s degree requirement as shorthand for a variety of soft skills. But the tight labor market is forcing them to broaden their talent pools.
In a conversation with Fortune’s Most Powerful Women community, former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty lays out steps to building more inclusive companies.
The big-name employer you worked for or the elite university you went to may matter less than you think. It’s what you did there that counts.
Social media makes it easy to identify potential candidates for job openings, but that’s led companies to focus too much on “passive” candidates who aren’t looking to move—a strategy that hurts retention because internal candidates feel overlooked. And when businesses do make a hire, they don’t know how effective their approaches are because they don’t track the results.