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Join the skills-first revolution – The new way of hiring employees!

#image 20 December 2023 | #image 5 min read



Last year saw a giant buzz around Tear the Paper Ceiling, which called for shattering stereotypes and misconceptions associated with hiring and recruitment. The campaign emphasized breaking the invisible barrier that comes at every turn for workers without a college degree and seeing people for their experiences, skills, and perspectives.

Launched in 2022, the Tear the Paper Ceiling campaign saw private and public organizations, government leaders, philanthropies, and nonprofits come together in support of STAR workers. It inspired organizations to break down barriers and create new opportunities for millions of STAR workers in the US. Recently, the campaign celebrated its first anniversary and welcomed new members to join the force. But what exactly is all the buzz about? What is the need for the initiative? Who are STAR workers, and what is the need for skills-first?

STARs are workers who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes. As per a study by Oppurtunity@Work, there are more than 70 million STAR workers in the US – which equals half of the country’s workforce. Unfortunately, there has been a serious decline in STARs’ upward mobility due to an alleged imbalance in the labor market. For instance, out of all the new jobs created between 2012 and 2019, 69% required a bachelor’s degree or higher. Statistically speaking, only 31% of the jobs were available to almost half of the US workforce, which comprised STARS. But why does this happen?

As per the research conducted collectively by Accenture, Grads of Life, and Harvard Business School’s Dismissed by Degrees, 90% of large organizations use some form of automated ATS to screen resumes, which filters out about half of all applications. The research adds that more than 60% of employers reject otherwise qualified candidates due to the lack of a bachelor’s degree. It is unfortunate that college degrees, which once opened doors to endless opportunities, are now hindering career growth for millions of skilled talent. The business world needs to look beyond college degrees to ensure equal and fair opportunities for all who are qualified. It needs to look forward to the skill-first hiring approach.

What is the skills-first hiring approach?

Over time, employers have realized that the best candidates may not need specific educational degrees or previous job titles to be deemed suitable for a role. In the study Dismissed by Degrees, 63% of employers said degree requirements made filling vacant positions extremely hard. Moreover, many employers also admitted that there wasn’t a significant difference between the productivity levels of employees with a degree and those without.

The skills-first hiring approach focuses on candidates’ skills rather than their experience. It encourages employers to prioritize their skillsets, abilities, and competencies over their educational qualifications or prior job experiences. Employers evaluate the actual experiences and accomplishments of the candidates that demonstrate their ability to perform the tasks successfully.

The world is ripe for skills-first hiring as it values adaptability and the ability to learn new skills quickly. For instance, it can prove vitally important for rapidly evolving industries like information technology, where it can go a long way in bridging the skill gaps and counter worker shortage in the market.

Skills-first hiring can help solve talent shortage issues

The talent shortage is a grave concern. The US Chamber of Commerce states that though US businesses are creating hundreds of thousands of jobs every month, many positions remain unfilled, especially in the professional and business service sectors. For instance, in February 2023, there were 9.9 million job openings in the US compared to 5.8 million unemployed people. Though the respective discrepancy between the available jobs and workers persisted due to several reasons, it often comes down to the skills. Moreover, the degree requirement in the US makes the matter even worse as it automatically eliminates 64% of working-age adults who do not possess a bachelor’s degree.

This demand-supply imbalance excludes approximately 80 million prime working-age Americans from succeeding in the workforce, and disruptions like the pandemic and great resignation have further worsened the situation across numerous industries. In such scenarios, the skills-first hiring approach presents a wonderful opportunity.

With the skills-first hiring approach, candidates are assessed based on their skills and abilities rather than their academic qualifications. It helps employers in industries – where labor market conditions are still relatively tight – in effectively tackling skills shortage concerns and fostering opportunities for skilled talent seeking to enhance their employment prospects.

As per the recent LinkedIn data, the skills that employees need for a given position have shifted by around 25% since 2015 and are expected to double by 2027. It adds that the skills-first hiring can:

  1. Increase candidate pools of employees without bachelor’s degrees by 9%.
  2. Increase the proportion of women in candidate pools by 24%.
  3. Increase candidate pools for Gen Z workers by over 10x, Millennial candidate pools by 9x, and Gen X pools by 8.5x.

The labor market is tight, and the competition for talent is tighter than ever. For instance, 77% of employers report having difficulty filling open roles. In such scenarios, skills first hiring can help you increase your talent pool while reducing bias and improving retention.

Skills-first hiring is a key to equity, and inclusion in the workplace

As per the 2021 population survey data from the United States Census Bureau, among adults aged 25 and older, 61% of Asian Americans in the US have a bachelor’s degree or more education. The data further reveals that only 41.9% of white adults, 28.1% of Black adults, and 20.6% of Hispanic adults hold at least a bachelor’s degree. It is to be noted that about 70% of the job postings listed degree requirements.

It is evident that the college degree barrier is not only limiting opportunities for deserving talent but is also making employers lose out on highly skilled talent from underrepresented backgrounds. By focusing on candidates’ skills instead of previous job titles, companies can increase their candidate pools to include more gender representation, younger workers, and equitability.

A skills-first approach to hiring paves the way for a more robust and inclusive group of candidates. It contributes to inclusion in the workplace and allows skilled talent to highlight their abilities and get considered for positions based on merit.

Is it time to drop the traditional degree requirement?

Let’s be honest! While the skills-first approach can help you build an inclusive workforce and foster equal and fair opportunities, shying away completely from the traditional hiring processes is not the best way forward. Take the example of specialized industries like healthcare, where a degree is imperative. After all, you cannot hire a nurse who does not have an appropriate college education and has not passed licensing exams.

Skills could be a more effective indicator of job performance than education or job titles. However, asking to drop the degree requirement completely may be speaking too soon. The skills-first hiring approach allows organizations to keep pace with the changing nature of work, but on some fronts, a degree answers the potential questions about how one fares as an employee.

Hoonr – The skills first revolution

Hoonr is an initiative by Pyramid Consulting that follows the skills-first philosophy and connects the world’s top talent to forward-thinking enterprises.

It is a well-thought approach that prioritizes the development and acquisition of practical skills and competencies as a fundamental foundation for success rather than focusing primarily on academic qualifications or theoretical knowledge.

Through Hoonr, we are embracing a new way of hiring. We do not rely on traditional resumes but instead focus on developing deep skill profiles for our experts – who have undergone rigorous skills assessments and/or successfully delivered complex projects for our customers.

Through Hoonr, we guarantee quality outcomes for our expert talent and customers. We are making joining the skills-first movement easier for new talent and making searching, engaging, hiring, and managing top-tier talent easier for customers.

Join the Skills-First Revolution with Pyramid Consulting. Learn more about Hoonr!


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