Skills-Based Hiring: The Long Road from Pronouncements to Practice | Harvard Business School and The Burning Glass Institute

Talent Acquisition

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Numerous headlines have discussed the shift towards skills-based hiring, where organizations prioritize candidates’ skills over traditional credentials, such as academic degrees. However, does eliminating degree requirements lead to increased hiring of candidates without degrees? This new report, based on a study of 11,300 roles at large firms, spanning at least one year before and after the removal of degree requirements, revealed that, on average, firms only saw a 3.5 percentage point increase in the hiring of workers without a BA. In essence, the promised expansion of opportunities through skills-based hiring materialized in less than 1 in 700 hires last year. However, 37% of the analyzed firms, classified as Skills-Based Hiring Leaders, managed a nearly 20% increase in hiring workers without BAs. Some of these leading firms include Koch Industries, Walmart, Apple, General Motors, Target, Cigna, Tyson Foods, ExxonMobil, Yelp, as well as government employers like the State of Minnesota and the City of Denver. The research underscores that merely removing degree requirements isn’t sufficient to bridge the gap between the intent and impact of skills-based hiring. Nevertheless, organizations, such as the referenced Skills-Based Hiring Leaders, that successfully navigate this transition stand to unlock the true potential of skills-based hiring. Other ideas are discussed in this 18-page paper.