3 Ways to Make Skill-Based Hiring a Reality in Tech

Technology and industry are constantly changing and HR departments must adapt if they are to continue to meet the needs of the businesses they serve. A recent survey of skilled trades employers found that 42% cite skills certifications as their top priorities when hiring, but nearly 56% still require college degrees for entry-level jobs. rung. Clearly, employers believe that skills and work experience are valuable, but there is an apparent mismatch between this belief and hiring practices.

Many hiring policies are stuck on the idea that a college degree is the only way to prepare for these positions and have not caught up with what today’s employers want (and need). It’s time for HR departments to update their policies and recognize the many ways entry-level technologists develop the skills they need to do the job.

It’s easier to look at a resume, see a computer science degree, and assume that person has learned what they need to do the job. However, technology is changing faster than degree programs can be put in place to support it, and a degree is not necessarily an indication of practical knowledge. Even if they have degrees, potential recruits need to keep up with industry advancements and have practical knowledge to be truly effective. Experienced candidates aren’t easy to find when hiring committees are overstretched to gather necessary feedback and suggestions from the team that needs new talent (which is also stressed by staff shortages). A skills-based approach to hiring can quickly resolve the debate between work experience and degree, but HR departments will need to see the big picture.

See also: Tech layoffs are on the rise – why Josh Bersin says it’s an opportunity for HR

A university degree certainly has value. You learn a lot in college, meet new people, and grow independently into adulthood. I am certainly not anti-university, but the myth that higher education is the only path to success is false, as is the belief that it is the only qualification one needs to succeed.

A college degree (on its own) does not mean that someone can survive in the business world. The school is a space where you are promoted to the next level every year if you have the appropriate credits. Professionally, landing jobs and getting promotions doesn’t work that way – you have to apply and compete for them. The formula for success demands more.

There are also many reasons why access to higher education might not be feasible for some, from learning styles to financial limitations and everything in between. There are plenty of smart, successful people out there without a college degree, and some of the best tech companies were even founded by college dropouts. You can definitely handle an entry-level job if you can run a business without a college degree.

In technology, the landscape changes so rapidly that valuable employees are those who constantly learn and adapt to new technologies. It’s wise for HR managers to seek out curious and intrinsically motivated potential hires who will be lifelong learners with a strong work ethic. Job qualifications should focus on what the employee actually needs to know and do to be successful in the desired position.

See also: Most employers still require a college degree, but for how much longer?

Evaluating candidates and employees based on skill sets takes more effort than clicking a button to filter out “Bachelor Degrees”. But choosing from a wider range of requirements can bring in a wider range of candidates who think and approach issues from different angles. Skills-based hiring has the potential to build stronger teams and organizations than just filling the office with college graduates.

So how do you get there? Here are three recommendations:

  1. Prioritize passion and dynamism.

Hiring someone with an aptitude for the job is a must, but that’s just a baseline – what’s (arguably) more important is their passion and drive. You can’t list “passion and drive” on a resume as easily as a college degree, but you can still measure someone’s enthusiasm and drive in other ways.

We talk a lot about passion, drive and aptitude at LaunchCode; we even have our own way of evaluating candidates for these traits. When one of our students completes a course and is ready to interview with companies, we can attest to their drive (because we know how difficult the course is and how much dedication it takes to complete it). Consider what might work in your business to ensure these “hard to measure” characteristics get the attention they deserve in the onboarding process. When you do, you will find employees who will truly excel in their jobs, regardless of their background.

  1. Replace “diploma” with “skills certificate”.

HR professionals need to expand their network when recruiting. If you want to find someone with a strong work ethic and specific knowledge for a position without the protection of a college degree, skills certifications are one way to do it. Tech giants such as Google and Microsoft offer a variety of skill-based certifications that demonstrate working knowledge of specific programs and workflows. Even platforms such as LinkedIn and Upwork offer assessments that applicants or freelancers can take to prove their skills. Organizations and companies, such as LaunchCode, offer courses and boot camps in various technologies for those just starting out or looking to change careers.

A great first step is to update job postings to include skills certificates instead of college degrees. These professional certifications cover an incredibly wide range of skills, from network administration to cybersecurity, design and more. They are often more job-related than university degree programs and much more accessible to today’s broader talent pool.

  1. Start immediately.

In 2020, the CEO of LinkedIn reported a 40% increase in non-degree job postings compared to 2019. At the same time, there was a 21% increase in job postings listing skills and qualifications. responsibilities instead of qualifications and requirements. More and more companies are learning more and more about the importance of filling positions with people who have the practical skills to perform their duties, regardless of their degree.

Related: Requiring college degrees: A sign of a ‘lazy employer’?

Strict credential-based hiring is an outdated method that stifles innovation in an ever-changing world. Technology is moving too fast for curricula to keep up with, which is why serious (but hilarious) missteps happen when employers keep this in mind. For example, a few weeks after Google announced its new programming language, Carbon, in July, a (now infamous) job posting made the rounds on social media. The position was looking for a junior carbon developer who “must have 10 years of carbon experience, bar none.” Talk about setting an impossible bar.

Despite this obvious (and fun) example, we all make the same mistake when we add strict educational requirements to job postings. This narrow and rigid habit is one of the many factors contributing to the labor shortage in the United States.

There is no doubt that college and university programs are valuable and rewarding, and there are many good reasons why people pursue a bachelor’s degree. A degree is certainly an indicator of the type of person you want to hire, but it is not the only one. Any good HR department wants to expand its talent pool, diversify skills in the workplace, and find those who will truly excel in their role. To get there, we need to break down outdated barriers to entry – timely innovation depends on it.

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