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  • Writer's pictureDini Habib

Why you have to start hiring for transferable skills

Whilst hiring for skills has been spoken about for some time now, it is usually just technical skills that have historically been the only skills that made their way onto an interviewer's checklist. They have long been valued more than transferable skills or soft skills in the workplace. However, the status quo has changed significantly over the last few years. Transferable skills have become even more important, given the rise of remote and autonomous work. Once upon a time, leadership was all about driving performance. Your ability to know how to do your job well, to do it well and occasionally ensure others were doing it well was at the heart of what it took to move up in an organisation. More and more organisations hire based on skills and not degrees – with excellent results. This is also why we believe the CV's relevance is ending, as applicants need to show, rather than tell, what they’re capable of.

What are transferable skills?

Transferable skills generally refer to categories like leadership, communication and problem-solving. On the other hand, hard skills are technical capabilities that can be quantified and measured. Workers can acquire technical knowledge through formal coursework, on-the-job training and real-world experiences.

Why is hiring for transferable skills so important?

Although technical skills can directly relate to a position, transferable skills are incredibly valuable to employers. Not only do they show that you’d be a good fit for the team, they can also demonstrate what a candidate can bring to a role and a team.

Based on recent LinkedIn data, Technical skills will help you get a recruiter's attention, but transferable skills will help you land the job. 45% of all LinkedIn Premium jobs posted within the past three months mention the importance of communication skills. And more than 61% of professionals say transferable skills in the workplace are just as important as technical skills.

Time for a structural reset

What does this mean for removing insurmountable job market barriers for those without degrees or sector-specific experience? Due to the colossal shift in supply vs demand of talent, focusing on hiring people with the right attitude and aptitude for a role and upskilling them is an approach that industries have adopted significantly.

As reported in a McKinsey survey, the proportion of companies addressing empathy and interpersonal skills doubled in 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, skills like leadership and relationship management became a much bigger priority for most companies, jumping ten percentage points year over year, from 40% to 50%. For the first time, we've also seen a move to all ten of the most in-demand skills being sought after by employers being transferable skills, with the first technical skill placing in 12th.

Is this the end of the degree?

To understand what sorts of changes are happening as companies abolish degree requirements, we need to look no further than companies that have recently announced the removal of degree requirements. Despite pledges to remove degree requirements, research from Harvard Business School found Oracle, for example, requires degrees in well over 90% of postings, including all of its network administrators. The national average is only 52%. The same study found that only 26% of Accenture’s postings contained a degree requirement. Likewise, only 29% of IBM’s did. But the percentages were dramatically different at Intel (94%), HP (92%), and Apple (90%). It has been widely believed and upheld that college graduates possess more refined technical and adaptive skills and the ability to work in groups, say or communicate efficiently in real-time, or prioritise tasks.

In an extensive insight study conducted by Clu last year, in over 800 interviews with hiring managers, almost 100% (96%) of hiring managers couldn't articulate the technical and transferable skills they were hiring for.

This may be because transferable skills are far harder to assess, but defaulting to using college degrees as a proxy for them is not only significantly hindering the potential of a talent pool but is fundamentally incorrect in its assumptions.

Scaling your talent pool

Across the Employers using Clu to date, we've seen a significant uptick in the ability to articulate requirements against any given role over a six-month period. We've also seen that after reducing their reliance on degree-based hiring, Employers seem to be thinking more carefully about what capabilities they are truly looking for and begin adding more transferable skills than technical skills to roles over the same six-month period of utilising skills-based hiring.

This is increasing the diversity and volume of relevant job applicants and significantly increasing the outcomes of those who would have been previously exited from a hiring process at the point of application due to a lack of technical skills.

The reset that’s taking place in hiring today is vitally important. If we want to increase equity in the job market and improve the financial independence of those from society's most marginalised communities, we must start removing barriers to well-paying jobs — and there’s no question that in recent years, one of those barriers has been underpinned by inflated degree requirements. All companies have different needs, of course, but as they write job descriptions and assess job seekers, they should carefully assess the value of the arbitrary blockers to the talent they’ve been using and the assumptions they’ve been making about who is talented and where that talent can manifest. ___

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At Clu, we're reinventing how job seekers find jobs by helping Employers get great at skills-based and inclusive hiring.

Find out more by getting in touch with us. We'd love to hear from you.


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