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Use skill assessments instead of education, experience requirements

According to research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a significant portion of HR professionals value competency-based hiring assessments, and some would strongly view them as alternatives to traditional education and training qualifications. ‘experience.

The survey of 1,688 SHRM members shows that more than half of employers (56%) use pre-employment assessments to measure candidates’ knowledge, skills and abilities.

SHRM found that:

  • 79% of HR professionals who use pre-hire assessments said skills assessments are equally or more important than traditional hiring criteria.
  • 36% said a job candidate who scores high on an assessment but doesn’t meet the minimum years of experience is very likely to be on the final candidate list.
  • 28% said a job applicant who scores high on the assessment but does not meet the minimum education requirements would be very likely to be on the final candidate list.

“While employers still struggle to fill vacancies, HR professionals are leading the way in using skills-based hiring and qualified qualifications to acquire top talent,” said Emily M. Dickens, Chief Chief of Staff of SHRM and Head of Government Affairs.

The SHRM survey also found that 78% of HR professionals said the quality of their organization’s hires had improved as a result of their use of assessments, and 23% said the diversity of their hires had improved. through assessments.

Twenty-five percent of employers plan to expand their use of pre-employment assessments in the next five years, and 10 percent plan to start using them in the next five years.

“Timely” change

Whitney Martin, employment assessment expert and president of ProActive Consulting in Louisville, Ky., believes adoption of pre-employment assessments is lower than the SHRM survey indicates, but supports the trend depicted by the data.

Rethinking recruitment and selection criteria for hiring is a timely consideration, she said, with reported labor shortages and record levels of job vacancies, as well as more employers trying to reach candidates with more diverse backgrounds.

“For so long, we’ve relied on education and experience as an indicator of things we think are important,” Martin said. “We assumed that college graduates have some intelligence and motivation. We assumed that people with some experience have the behaviors and knowledge to do the job. There are a lot of assumptions with the criteria of traditional hiring. Not only does this method introduce bias, but we have data that shows that education and prior work experience are not good predictors of job performance.”

Kermit Kaleba, director of employment-aligned degree program strategy for the Lumina Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization focused on post-secondary education, described skills-based hiring as “focusing on what what you can do rather than what particular degree you have”.

Employers have always inflated educational requirements for jobs, asking for a bachelor’s degree or higher even when it’s not really necessary to do the job, Kaleba said.

“If you set expectations that you have to have a degree to qualify for a job, you automatically exclude a lot of people,” Kaleba said. “In recent years we’ve seen a correction, where more employers are asking if a college degree is really necessary to do the job, or if skills and competencies are recognized enough for workers with the right training.”

What are the best measures?

Martin said asking applicants to take skills and knowledge tests — instead of relying on assumptions based on education level or seniority — is a step in the right direction, but not the best one. using the science of assessment to find the right person for the job.

“Skills and knowledge tests can be used to confirm future relevant skills and knowledge, but they are not predictive of future job performance,” she said. “The half-life of learned skills is five years, and the need to learn new skills increases with each passing year. The ability and motivation to learn, as measured in cognitive, personality, and values, are much more predictive for overall long-term job performance.”

Martin recommended employers use both types of testing, “working both sides to get the best information.”

She also agreed with SHRM that having a granular understanding of the role is key to applying the right assessment. “You definitely need to have a high degree of alignment between what you’re measuring and what’s needed for the job,” she said. “Subjecting everyone to the same assessment – measuring everyone’s Excel skills or attention to detail, for example – is just not relevant.”

Removing Barriers to Hiring

Amanda Cage, CEO of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, a Washington, D.C.-based workforce development organization, said removing unnecessary educational requirements from hiring is a “win-win for workers and employers, because the inflation of diplomas is decreasing and more jobs are open to qualified candidates. »

Cage said the movement to remove degree barriers is building, as evidenced by:

  • A 2022

    harvard business review analysis of over 50 million job postings from 2017 to 2020, showing a growing number of employers looking for skills and competencies rather than relying on degrees.

  • Newly released rules make it easier for people without a four-year college degree to apply for federal jobs.
  • About 100 top US companies committing to providing well-paying jobs with career paths for people without a four-year degree.

[SHRM members-only HR Q&A: What should employers consider when determining if a job requires a college degree?]

“Employers are rewriting job descriptions, revising interview processes, adding more training and developing new career paths,” Cage said. “Companies can expand these opportunities by partnering with community colleges and other providers offering high-quality, non-degree training. If we are successful, skills-based hiring can be crucial in expanding opportunities for million workers while helping American businesses compete with broader talent pools.”

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