Hiring for Potential Rather Than Degrees: Skills-Based Hiring on the Rise

As organisations grapple with the ever-evolving job market, the landscape of talent acquisition is shifting. Organisations of all types are increasingly recognising that the traditional approach of hiring based solely on degrees may not be the most effective way to secure top-tier talent.


Instead, a growing number of organisations are embracing skills-based hiring, putting a premium on the abilities, potential, and growth mindset of candidates over their formal education credentials. This paradigm shift is reshaping how companies find and nurture their future leaders. 


Skills-based hiring ranks first among the most effective methods for hiring diverse workforces. And in a number of countries and regions, including the United Kingdom and the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, this alternative practice is gathering traction and gradually replacing the outmoded resume-based hiring method. 


A recent research project by Remote indicates that recruiting based on skills has increased by 63% over the past year, as more employers value experience over academic credentials. In addition, according to a SHRM study, 79% of employers believe that skill assessments are as essential or more so than other hiring criteria. 


LinkedIn observed a 21% increase in the number of job postings in the United States that emphasised talents over qualifications.


The Changing Face of Talent 

For decades, many organisations relied heavily on degrees as a primary filter for job applicants. A bachelor’s or master’s degree was often seen as a non-negotiable requirement for even entry-level positions. However, this approach has faced criticism for several reasons. 


Firstly, degrees do not always accurately reflect an individual’s practical skills and capabilities. A candidate with a degree in a particular field may not necessarily excel in a related job, while someone without a degree might have developed exceptional skills through hands-on experience. 


Secondly, the demand for certain skills, especially in rapidly evolving industries like technology, can outpace the curriculum of traditional education systems. In such cases, degrees can become outdated even before they are earned. 


The Rise of Skills-Based Hiring 

In response to these challenges, forward-thinking companies are placing greater emphasis on skills-based hiring. This approach involves assessing candidates based on their specific competencies, experiences, and potential to adapt and learn rather than relying solely on their formal education. 

Here are some key aspects. of skills-based hiring: 

  1. Skills Assessments: Companies are using various methods, such as practical tests, simulations, and technical interviews, to gauge a candidate’s proficiency in relevant skills. This provides a more accurate representation of their abilities.


  1. Portfolios and Projects: Candidates are encouraged to showcase their work through portfolios or by completing real-world projects during the interview process. This allows employers to see tangible evidence of a candidate’s skills.


  1. Cultural Fit: Employers are increasingly looking for candidates who align with the company’s values and culture. Skills-based hiring considers a candidate’s potential to thrive in the organisation’s environment.


  1. Continuous Learning: Companies are seeking individuals who have a growth mindset and are willing to continually develop their skills. Lifelong learners who adapt to change are highly valued.


Benefits of Skills-Based Hiring 

Skills-based hiring offers numerous advantages for both employers and candidates: 

  1. Diverse Talent Pool: It widens the pool of potential candidates, allowing for more diverse and inclusive hiring practices.


  1. Cost-Efficiency: Employers can save on recruiting costs by focusing on essential skills rather than degrees.


  1. Better Job Fit: Employees hired for their skills are often a better fit for their roles, leading to improved job satisfaction and performance.


  1. Future-Proofing: Skills-based hiring ensures that organisations remain adaptable to industry changes by hiring candidates with a demonstrated capacity for learning.


In a world where skills are valued as much, if not more, than formal degrees, companies are redefining their approach to talent acquisition. Skills-based hiring offers a promising way to identify and develop the leaders of tomorrow.


As founder and Managing Principal of PeopleEdge, Jo Attard Watters understands the importance of nurturing leadership potential. Embracing skills-based hiring aligns with her passion for helping leaders excel in their craft and staying at the forefront of management and leadership thinking. 


As you consider your own hiring practices, remember that degrees are just one piece of the puzzle. Assessing skills, potential, and cultural fit can lead to a more dynamic, innovative, and diverse workforce that can drive your organisation’s success in the long term.


Jo Attard Watters is the Managing Principal and Founder of PeopleEdge Coaching & Consulting. Jo is a professional, Master’s degree qualified Executive and Career Management Coach, Consultant, Business Adviser and Academic who works with individuals and organisations to help them “be the best they can be”. With significant experience within both Corporate and Not for Profit sectors, Jo is passionate about seeing her clients succeed in their areas of interest.