Hiring for success: the case for skills and attitude

With over 18 years of HR, recruitment, and talent management experience, I’ve witnessed the ebb and flow of numerous hiring paradigms. Yet, amid this evolution, one truth persists: the pivotal role that both skills and attitude play in achieving hiring success.

In the contemporary landscape of the UK job market, where digital and technological competencies reign supreme, employers grapple with an array of challenges. Foremost among these challenges is the gaping skills chasm. As highlighted in a recent UK government report, almost 1 million vacancies remain unfilled, with a considerable chunk earmarked for digital and technology-related roles.

Hiring for success: the case for Skills and Attitude

Simultaneously, a fervent war for talent rages on. Employers find themselves ensnared in a ceaseless competition for top-tier candidates, propelling salary increments and intensifying the struggle to both locate and retain exceptional talent.

In response to these mounting hurdles, an increasing number of employers are embracing the ethos of skills-based hiring. This approach to recruitment pivots away from fixating on educational pedigrees or professional accreditations, instead spotlighting a candidate’s proficiencies and capabilities.

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The advantages underpinning skills-based hiring

When you begin to explore skills-based hiring, it soon becomes clear that there are numerous benefits on offer. Let’s take a look at some of these now:

Expanded candidate quality

By fostering a skills-centric approach, employers open the gates to a broader talent pool, inclusive of individuals from non-traditional backgrounds. This diversification often results in a higher calibre of candidates, unshackled from the constraints of possessing specific degrees or qualifications.

Enhanced longevity and retention

Skills-based recruitment significantly contributes to prolonged employee tenures and elevated retention rates. Acknowledged and utilised skills foster heightened engagement and fulfilment among employees, creating an environment where individuals feel valued and aligned with their roles, consequently fostering a stronger commitment to the organisation and prolonging their tenure within it. This emphasis on skill utilisation engenders a sense of fulfilment, incentivising employees to invest in their roles, and consequently bolstering their dedication and longevity within the company.

Amplified talent pool

Liberated from conventional constraints, skills-based hiring empowers employers to cast a wider net, seeking out candidates with the precise skills and expertise they necessitate, irrespective of educational backgrounds or professional certificates. This inclusivity cultivates a more diverse workforce, a boon for both employers and employees.

Cost-efficiency in recruitment

Focusing on skills minimises recruitment expenses by avoiding unnecessary investment in qualifications misaligned with job roles. This strategic shift optimises budget utilisation, directing resources toward assessing pertinent abilities, streamlining hiring processes, and mitigating expenses associated with assessing and validating non-essential qualifications, thereby fostering a more cost-effective recruitment approach.

Cultivation of a diverse workforce

Skills-centric recruitment fosters a more diverse workforce by eliminating restrictions tied to specific educational backgrounds or professional qualifications. This diversity fuels an inclusive and innovative workplace culture, benefitting both employers and employees alike.

Where do degrees and professional qualifications come in?

Degrees and professional qualifications continue to hold significance in the hiring landscape. In fact, 57% of employers still seek candidates with a degree. Vocational qualifications, particularly those meticulously tailored to imbue candidates with specialised, job-relevant proficiencies, remain invaluable. These qualifications serve as concrete evidence of a candidate’s commitment to learning and their acquisition of pertinent skills necessary for certain roles.

However, a myopic focus solely on these educational credentials during the hiring process can inadvertently limit an employer’s perspective. Relying excessively on degrees or professional qualifications might overlook individuals with exceptional abilities, practical experience, or unique skill sets acquired through alternative avenues, such as self-directed learning, relevant workshops, or hands-on projects.

Employers need to strike a balance, recognising the value of qualifications while remaining open to diverse talent pools. Acknowledging that talent often transcends traditional academic achievements can unlock opportunities to harness exceptional skills and perspectives that might otherwise be missed in a solely credential-driven recruitment approach.

The role of educational institutions

Educational institutions, spanning schools, colleges, and universities, bear a critical responsibility in preparing future professionals for the evolving job market. Beyond imparting technical knowledge, these institutions must prioritise instilling a holistic skill set in students, aligning with the demands of modern workplaces.

Firstly, cultivating an environment that fosters adaptability is crucial. Institutions should equip students with the capacity to continually acquire new skills, emphasising the importance of lifelong learning in an ever-evolving professional landscape.

Collaborative teamwork stands as another cornerstone. Encouraging group projects and interactive learning experiences fosters the collaborative spirit essential for success in diverse workplace settings. This approach not only refines students’ ability to work in teams but also cultivates the valuable skill of navigating varied perspectives to achieve common goals.

Problem-solving prowess is paramount. Educational institutions must nurture students’ critical thinking abilities, guiding them to tackle complex challenges methodically. Equipping students with problem-solving skills cultivates resilience and resourcefulness, essential traits for navigating real-world scenarios.

Equally vital are soft skills. Communication, teamwork, and problem-solving abilities are indispensable in today’s multifaceted work environments. Institutions should actively prioritize honing these skills, recognising their pivotal role in fostering effective professional interactions and enhancing overall workplace productivity.

Tips for embracing skill-based hiring

For employers keen on embracing skills-based hiring, consider these tips:

  • Identify specific skills and abilities: Pinpoint the hard and soft skills crucial for the role, transcending beyond technical competencies to include interpersonal attributes like communication and collaboration.
  • Craft skills-oriented job descriptions: Focus job descriptions on delineating the precise skills and proficiencies requisite for the role, rather than fixating on educational backgrounds or professional credentials.
  • Diversify recruitment channels: Employ a multitude of recruitment avenues—online job boards, social media, employee referrals—to tap into a broader candidate pool.
  • Revamp interview processes: Tailor interviews to scrutinise candidates’ skill sets and capabilities. This could involve skills assessments or role-play scenarios to gauge their aptitudes accurately.
  • Prioritise skills in decision-making: Base hiring decisions primarily on a candidate’s skills and abilities, veering away from overreliance on educational or professional qualifications.

Final thoughts

In an era defined by rapid technological evolution and escalating competition for top talent, the discerning embrace of skills and attitude in the hiring sphere emerges as the linchpin for sustainable success.

Tracey Knowles Chief People Officer at Wirex
Tracey Knowles

With more than 18 years of experience in the dynamic field of talent management and human resources, Tracey knows a thing or two about people. She's currently the Chief People Officer at Wirex and writes the occasional column at TechFinitive.