Skills vs Academics? How employers are evaluating candidates
The hallmark of a qualified candidate used to be a college degree. Older generations will tell you that graduating from college guarantees employment. In some ways, the idea still rings true: companies screen their candidates based on their tertiary education, and candidates often do not reach the job interview portion of the hiring process without so-called “proper” credentials.
According to the World Economic Forum, more than a billion jobs worldwide will be transformed by technology in the next decade. The nature of employment is thus changing fast. Much of what is learned in college can turn obsolete in just a few years.
And so, as jobs and careers evolve, so will the recruitment process and candidate requirements. In Indeed and People Matters Recruitment Outlook 2022, nearly seven in 10 employers surveyed said they consider the college degree (or higher) to be a “good benchmark of performance and aptitude”.
But with the advent of technology and the shorter shelf-life of technical skills, more employers are now looking to skills certification (80%) as evidence of candidates’ achievement and learning agility.
What is causing this shift? For one, there is a looming digital talent shortage, as WEF suggests. When companies shift their focus from degrees to skills, they gain access to a wider talent pool that may not necessarily fit into the stereotype of the college graduate with a linear career progression.
Are credentials enough to measure an applicant’s capability, credibility and dependability at work? For some experts, the combination of hard skills and soft skills may or may not require a college degree.
Technical skills acquired through non-traditional means prove how, even without a degree, candidates can perform difficult and complex tasks as required. On the other end of the spectrum, however, completing formal education serves as evidence that a person has the right knowledge and grit to join the ranks. In the end, candidates can make the most of their employment opportunities by staying ahead of the curve and becoming lifelong learners.
Since companies today want employees with a wide range of competencies – such as creative thinking, critical thinking, communication, and leadership – which can bolster one’s performance in the long run, hiring managers are also introducing a diverse set of screening methods to find the right talent.
Despite the greater emphasis on technical competencies – which require candidates to go through rigorous skills testing to prove their mettle – nearly four in five employers (76.9%) rely on one-on-one interviews as the most effective candidate screening method. The survey found a remarkable shift toward “humanizing the recruitment process”, regardless if the employers are screening for soft or hard skills. Employers are making it a point to get to know their applicants better, as evidenced by their preference for open-ended, one-on-one, or panel interviews.