Don’t Dismiss Skills-Based Hiring In Favor Of College Degrees

Nowhere is the old adage “History repeats itself” more true than when a manager is hiring a new employee. Many managers ask questions that have little to do with the position for which a candidate interviews for, and this is a mistake. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Skill Based Hiring

A decade ago, Inc. Magazine identified four traits common to the hiring practices of the most successful companies:

  1. Ask candidates to describe their skills using specific real-world examples.
  2. Use software-based resume screening and search.
  3. Hold simulations that determine desired job-related capabilities and skills.
  4. Assess what motivates a candidate and whether that matches the company’s values and methods of doing things.

Two of the four practices common to successful organizations relate to the skills that an employee brings to the organization. These companies saw no need to look at GPA or class rank as an indicator of success. With the right skill sets, and depending on the position, a high school diploma might be sufficient.

Fast forward to 2013, and a Business Enterprise lead story echos Inc. Magazine: “Bill Gates and His Foundation: Employers Should Focus on Skills, NOT College Degrees.”

The Gates Foundation bases says using a college degree as a requirement automatically shut out highly capable candidates lacking a diploma from a college. No matter if their skills have proven their ability in similar positions, when their resume arrives it goes in the unqualified pile and forgotten.

HR managers might do well to remember that Bill Gates himself never graduated college. He was a drop out and founded Microsoft with no other credential than a high school diploma.

Whom Would You Hire?

You are hiring for a retail sales leader for your organization.

Applicant A

This applicant’s resume reveals that the person attended a well-known business school and graduated in the top 10 percent of the class. Over the summers the potential hire had unpaid internships in medium sized companies. Reference letters from all internships remarked on dependability, cooperation, and willingness to learn. The individual has no other job experience.

Applicant B

This person has a high school diploma. While in high school, the applicant worked in a car dealership as a “gofer.” Following high school, the dealership promoted the potential hire to a sales position in its used car department. While in that department, the person often led in monthly sales.

The applicant then moved to another dealership to sell new cars. In no time, the applicant became a frequent sales leader and assistant sales manager within 18 months.

B is the best choice for this position. B has a record of success in retail sales. Applicant A has no real job history. His sales skills are untested and unmentioned in reference letters.

But, if this fictitious hiring takes place in a company that does not use skills-based hiring, B’s application when screened is discarded – no college degree and the lesser applicant A will be invited to interview.

This is clearly not in the best interest of the company.