If you want to attract more candidates, LinkedIn has a suggestion: Focus your job description on skills.
LinkedIn looked at its data and found that a “skills first” approach to job descriptions can increase applications by 11% — which can make a huge difference for companies that struggle to find enough applicants. Basically, this is the difference between a job post that states X years of experience required and Skill X required. As Linkedin points out, “the former excludes people who might have the right skills but don’t have the experience, while the latter invites anyone with the relevant skills to apply.”
Additionally, LinkedIn found that recruiters who search for candidates based on skills receive substantially better responses to their InMails. Perhaps no surprise, then, that the platform’s research also showed that three-quarters of talent professionals say they’ll be prioritizing skills-first hiring in the coming year.
This all sounds promising, but…
Questioning the Research
Not all recruiters want to jump on board with LinkedIn’s evaluation of its data. While many will concede that highlighting needed skills can increase the probability of someone clicking “apply,” there is more to an application than a click (unless it is the instant-apply option).
Tiffany Feeney, a global executive headhunter and recruiter for Talent Outpost and former technical recruiter at Google, questions these claims, explaining that “LinkedIn’s ‘view-to-apply rate’ isn’t really applying to the role. The prospective candidate clicking on the ‘apply’ button will just go to the company website’s job posting unless it’s an ‘easy apply’ button. But does the candidate follow through with the application? From my client’s experience, less than 10% of the ‘applicants’ on the Linkedin job post follow through and apply.”
Katrina Collier, author of The Robot-Proof Recruiter, also wonders about the quality of these candidates. “I’d like to see the quality of the applicants against the job description to see if that’s improved,” Collier says, “It could simply be the job posts with skills added rank higher in the search results and therefore receive more applications.”
Additional information would be helpful before recruiters focus on building skill-based job descriptions. It’s not enough to get candidates to click. Employers need suitable candidates to click and apply.
That said, many recruiters already see benefits from skill-based hiring.
Benefits of Skill-Based Hiring
Credentials, whether degrees or a specific number of years of service, can serve as good proxies for skills, but focusing on these can lead to unintentional (or even overt) discrimination.
Oyefeso Daniel, an HR supervisor at Sunflag Group, has noticed a marked shift in job descriptions. He notes: “This shift is driven by several factors, including the recognition that skills can be developed through various means and that traditional credentials may not always accurately reflect a person’s abilities.”
By requesting skills, Daniel says, you can “help overcome biases that may be present in credential-based requirements.” But that doesn’t mean a complete renouncement of traditional credentialing. He advocates using a combination of skills and credentials to attract the best candidates.
“I agree with skills over credentials!” remarks Tim den Hoed, an HR consultant. “I know several companies starting to go down this path and hope it continues to gain traction!”
Jaya Babu, an HR professional at Ford motor Co., points out that skills-based hiring may be a way to get around the experience paradox. “Lack of experience is still seen as a curse in many cases. Attitude and skill-based hiring is the way of the future.”
It’s also worth pointing out that there are alternate ways for candidates to demonstrate skills other than resume-worthy experience. In addition to traditional schooling, there are alternate and even micro-learning certifications.
For instance, Terri Zaugg Varnell, chief operating officer of HRCP, focuses on helping HR people gain micro-credentials, which she says can help people build their careers — and help employers find who has the skills. Varnell explains:
Employers are looking for reasons to select candidates or promote their employees. Those who are able to show they have the skills, experience, and knowledge relevant to a particular position are more likely to get noticed. Even if you have a degree or have worked in HR for many years, additional credentials can make you more attractive to an employer. Continuous learning plays a key role in your professional development and career growth.
If you list skills in a job description and candidates can find ways to get those skills, it will be a winning situation for everyone. It also makes the criteria clear for internal growth. Instead of saying that someone needs to be in a position for X years before moving up, skills-based job descriptions can create clear, achievable paths for people.
None of this means that credentials and experience are out the door. Eike Spengler, in response to a previous ERE article about skills, tweeted that piece “[c]an be summed up in a simple formula: the broader the required knowledge, the more important is experience.”
Ultimately, as data emerges backing up the popularity of skill-based hiring, expect to see more job descriptions focusing not on whether a candidate has done the job but whether that candidate could do the job.