Creating a skills-based approach to talent acquisition strategies

Creating a skills-based approach to talent acquisition strategies


I’ve been in talent acquisition for a long time and understand talent acquisition strategies thoroughly. I started long before applicant tracking systems; I had file drawers full of applications that I would go to when we had an opening. We tracked who we considered, interviewed and their rating on a sheet kept in a file folder with all the applications. We didn’t even use Excel to track. 

In all the years I’ve done this, the process has generally remained the same: job is posted, application submitted, applicant reviewed and applicant selected. And we like to tell candidates who weren’t selected for a position that we’ll keep their application on file, but it was a whole lot easier to say that and feel like I wasn’t lying when I had a paper file. Now, with the ATS, I’m lucky if I can find past applications when I know the name. Chances are, I’ve got a lot of candidates who have applied to look through that I’m not even going to go searching for someone who applied before.

Talent acquisition strategies that are stuck in the past

All of the fanciest applicant tracking systems work pretty much the same — let’s be honest, the ATS is mostly there just to eliminate paper & manual tracking, not to make the process easier. The very first step is an application. And some of them make you upload a resume AND fill out the application. We ask for work history because the prevailing thought process is still the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. But is it really?

We hear a lot of stories about people lying on their resume, fabricating experience or education. Most recruiters have at least one (or more) stories of being taken in by someone who interviews like a dream, only to discover they do not have the knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs) or even the desire to do the job. So we talk about better background checks, better-interviewing skills to catch someone in a lie. What we don’t talk about is figuring out how to really check someone’s KSAs.

Looking beyond higher education

When we talk about pre-employment assessments, we tend to shy away from them because we also want to create a good candidate experience. Usually, that means, we don’t want to make the candidates jump through too many hoops. But what if we changed the hoops.

Think about it. I’ve been in the workforce for 25 years. Does my Bachelor’s degree from 1993 really affect the work I’m doing now? We still write job descriptions based more on education and years of experience rather than the actual KSAs someone needs to do the job. What if we rewrote the job descriptions? Rather than saying a degree is required, talk about what someone would have gained from their education that will be applied to the job.

The talent acquisition strategies of major employers today

Here’s my radical idea: we stop focusing on applications, resumes, and cover letters and move into skill assessments. Check out the Nike Careers home page. They don’t even start with job titles (because let’s be honest, job titles are totally meaningless.) Nike asks you questions about what you want to do for a company, what traits best describe you, what are you passionate about, and then they tell you what jobs you might be a fit for (now, full disclosure, I have gone through the rest of their process, for research, and the remainder of their process is still pretty basic — complicated application. But at least the start is fun.)

Just imagine if rather than a long list of open positions, you asked candidates to start with a skills assessment. Something short; something fun (think Disney Princess personality assessment). Something that can point the candidate to the job they are the best fit for in your organization. Then, rather than searching through multiple applications, your recruiters know they are looking at candidates that are a good match for the role, rather than a bunch of people who are applying for anything and everything that might be near what they are really looking for.

Harnessing the power of innovation

We need to rethink how we ask candidates to engage with us. Asking for someone’s entire life story as they are just getting to know us is an outdated notion. We can use our ATS and artificial intelligence to build an interactive process that focuses on the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to be successful in the role, in your organization and build a selection process that focuses on these and not just works the candidates have done in the past.

Find assessments to help your candidate find the right spot and be able to share their abilities with you in a way that isn’t open to interpretation, that the recruiters and hiring managers. We need to make the selection process easier, more objective, and less subjective. By adding in more short assessments you can take a lot of the “gut-feelings” out of hiring and help your recruitment staff and hiring managers to be more confident in their selection.

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