The New-Collar Workforce | Harvard Business Review

Workforce Trends

Many organizations continue to face challenges in attracting and hiring talent. However, hiring managers often contribute to this challenge by including irrelevant criteria in their job descriptions. One selection criterion that has come under increased scrutiny is academic degrees. As organizations use academic degrees as a filter for identifying talent—particularly for roles where this criterion is less relevant to effective performance—they inadvertently reduce their talent pool, impede internal mobility, and hire inefficiently. This new article outlines a “skills-first” approach to selection that focuses on job candidates’ skills instead of their degree status. It shares practices from firms, such as IBM, Aon, Cleveland Clinic, Delta Air Lines, Bank of America, and Merck, which have been used to emphasize skills and capabilities, not academic credentials. A few tactics include: 1) creating apprenticeships, internships, and training programs for people without college degrees, and 2) helping hiring managers embrace skills-first thinking. As recruiters identify opportunities for shifting to skill-based hiring, one tactic they can use is to review a handful of open jobs they have had difficulty in hiring and determine if those job descriptions are at risk of degree inflation. Ask managers questions such as: Why is having a B.A. necessary for success in this role? Does having an academic degree really show the person has the skills needed to perform this role effectively? As a bonus article, here is another new HBR article, How Important Is a College Degree Compared to Experience?