homepage | Skills-First Training and Hiring Gains Traction Heading Into 2024 

January 4, 2024

Skills-First Training and Hiring Gains Traction Heading Into 2024 

by Pete Dulin

One key prediction from LinkedIn’s 2023 The Future of Recruiting report drew attention to skills-first hiring. Recruiters were 50 percent more likely to search by skills than they were to search by years of experience, according to the report. Looking ahead, 75 percent of recruiting professionals predicted skills-first hiring will be a priority for their company in the next 18 months.

“Skills-first hiring is the concept that employers should consider the skills a prospective employee has gained through education, career training or work experience rather than simply relying on a degree as a threshold for employment,” explains Julie Lammers, senior vice president of advocacy and corporate social responsibility for American Student Assistance, as reported in the Wisconsin State Journal

Skills-first hiring has been an ongoing trend in recent years.  

A 2022 study from Jobs For The Future and American Student Assistance supported the rationale for hiring based on skills. The research was based on “interviews and baseline surveys of 1,500 Gen Z teens and more than 600 employers, to understand current familiarity with and perceptions of non-degree postsecondary pathways.”

  • Of employers polled, 81 percent said organizations should hire based on skills rather than degrees.  
  • Most employers (72%) don’t see a degree as a reliable signal for assessing the skills of a candidate. Yet the majority (52%) still hire from degree programs because they believe it is a less risky choice when hiring. 
  • 68 percent of employers and 58 percent of high school students agree that organizations should hire candidates from non-degree pathways. 
  • 74% of Gen Z want to earn skills that will lead to a good job.

While employers indicate they should hire based on skills, in practice a slight majority still rely on hiring candidates with degrees. Accordingly, viable skilled candidates are overlooked if they don’t have a degree.   

Hiring managers seeking talent aren’t always willing to take calculated risks on non-degree candidates. In contrast, many younger job seekers believe in learning needed skills outside of a degree program. They want those skills to lead to a good-paying job.  

Steadily, the practices of hiring managers and recruiters are evolving. Degree requirements are easing to find more candidates who have the skills to do the job.  

The Burning Glass Institute’s 2022 report stated in its executive summary:

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this shift in hiring requirements already in process.  
The executive summary also noted: “When employers drop degrees, they become more specific about skills in job postings, spelling out the soft skills that may have been assumed to come with a college education, such as writing, communication, and being detail-oriented.” 
Recently, the language of job postings has evolved to emphasize soft skills that also include problem-solving, conflict resolution, critical thinking, and supervisory skills. These human skills or soft skills are no longer necessarily learned in college, especially for younger generations entering the workforce without a degree.  

Fast forward to 2024. Talent acquisition professionals and recruiters have begun to reset their requirements. Degrees and prior experience remain important. Yet, employers increasingly seek candidates with a strong skill set to fill open positions during a labor shortage.  

A 2023 skills-based hiring report from Test Gorilla showed that skills-based hiring “emerged as a viable alternative to biased, inaccurate, and ineffective recruitment practices.” Employers using skills-based hiring resulted in “a recruitment process that is fast, fair, cost-effective, and produces fewer mis-hires. Candidates hired through this approach are more diverse, motivated, and more likely to succeed. 

According to Test Gorilla’s survey, 73 percent of companies in 2023 used skills-based hiring, up from 56 percent in 2022. The number of companies planning to increase their spend on skills-based hiring has increased from 39 percent in 2022 to 60 percent in 2023, per the report. 

The emphasis on skills-first hiring will continue as companies gain confidence and attain results with this approach.  

The focus on job-relevant skills also applies to existing workers, both as a talent retention tool and as a viable way to upskill workers for advancement from within the workforce.

UMKC TalentLink offers a wide array of training for employers who need to strengthen the skills of new hires and current team members. Whether there’s a need to build soft skills, first-time supervisor skills, or management and communication skills, UMKC TalentLink offers effective resources that can be adapted to a particular need. 

Learning and applying soft skills and technical skills remains important. Highly skilled workers can gain an advantage when job hunting. Candidates found benefit from skills-first hiring by being able to showcase skills relevant to their role and landing jobs more aligned with their goals and values.  

Adding or building your skill set is a smart, focused way to increase your value as a job candidate. Learning a new skill set and earning certification can open a pathway toward a good-paying job in a new field, such as healthcare or manufacturing.  

Learn more about healthcare certification programs from MedCerts. 

Learn more about online training in manufacturing from WorkForge, including welding, CNC, robotics, aerospace, and more.