LinkedIn Launches Skills-Based Approach to Hiring

Companies like BlackRock, Gap Inc. and Wayfair are participating in Skills Path program

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer June 10, 2021
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​LinkedIn's new skills-based hiring initiative aims to connect employers and job seekers by identifying the core skills for open roles and then matching qualified candidates to those roles based on their proficiencies. 

The Skills Path program is a new way to use LinkedIn Recruiter, through which the company's learning courses and skills assessments match nontraditional candidates with job interviews. More than a dozen companies are already participating in the pilot program, including BlackRock, Citrix, Gap Inc., Gusto, TaskRabbit and Wayfair.

"How we hire can be limiting," said Hari Srinivasan, LinkedIn's vice president of product. "Many recruiting processes depend on relevant experience or degrees to find candidates, but sometimes the person that's the best fit for the role is from a community an employer has never considered before."

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of London-based job search engine Adzuna, said society has conditioned people to think that "the better the education you have, the better job you're likely to get. This isn't necessarily true, and it doesn't have to be this way. Not having a college degree needs to become more normalized in the talent pools employers consider and [is] something skilled employees shouldn't be ashamed of. There is simply not the availability of formally qualified talent to meet demand in boom industries like tech and digital marketing, meaning [there is] a massive opportunity for employers willing to train or upskill workers on the job." 

Srinivasan explained how Skills Path works:

  • First, hiring managers at participating companies identify the root skills for specific roles.
  • Candidates will be asked to demonstrate their proficiency in a multiple-choice assessment, as well as in a video or written test. Job seekers can close any skills gaps with free LinkedIn Learning courses curated for the requirements for the role.
  • Those who pass the tests are guaranteed an interview with a recruiter.

"Skills-based hiring relies on knowing first what those skills are, then knowing how to validate those skills in a trusted way," Srinivasan said. "If we can hire people based on skills competencies, it allows employers to adapt much more quickly to the fast-changing labor market, and many more job seekers will have a lot more opportunities available to them. Coupled with learning, people can create a pathway to a career they may not have thought was possible."    

The pilot participants are using the program to hire for customer service and sales representatives, data analysts, project managers, recruiters and logistics coordinators.

"The common thread is that these are in-demand roles, and that the upskilling requires knowledge that can be learned digitally," Srinivasan said. "This wouldn't work for hiring a neurosurgeon, for example. But there are a lot of pathways that it would work for."

Gap Inc. is using Skills Path to fill inventory planning analyst jobs at its Banana Republic brand. Candidates will be assessed on Excel, analytical skills, communication and problem solving, said Meghan Kelly, global head of talent acquisition for the San Francisco-based retailer. The company is planning to apply the method for customer support roles in the future.

"In our industry, there are certain roles and functions that will continue to require specific accreditation, but there are many roles where it's more important to have the right skills regardless of where or if you went to school or what industry you currently work in," she said. "For those roles, skills and experience are the first indication of success, and those are the areas we plan to explore with Skills Path."

Srinivasan said the idea for Skills Path came from the disconnect experienced at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when millions of workers in some industries were laid off while other sectors couldn't hire fast enough.  

"Workers don't often realize that the skills they have for one job can be easily transitioned to another job," he said. "But the fact is, even if they do realize that, they can't get hired until employers realize that, too."

Part of a Broader Trend

Skills Path fits into a growing movement toward hiring based on skills rather than on traditional education requirements like a four-year college degree.

LinkedIn has reported a 21 percent increase over the past year in job postings in the U.S. that advertise skills and responsibilities instead of qualifications and requirements , and the number of positions that don't require a college degree increased by nearly 40 percent from 2019 to 2020.

Organizations around the world are working to systematically map and classify tasks and jobs around skills, while providers who offer short upskilling and reskilling programs that lead to credentials have boomed.

"Skills-based hiring helps employers fill their open roles with high-quality talent and helps the 70 million people being screened out from having an opportunity to get a good job just because they don't have a bachelor's degree," said Cristian Sirera, senior manager of corporate partnerships at Opportunity@Work, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group focused on expanding career opportunities for those without a college degree. "Roughly 75 percent of all new job postings require a bachelor's degree, and about 65 percent of the workforce does not have one—the math does not work," he said.

The organization is partnering with employers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and the Washington, D.C., area to work on career pathing, identifying roles that can be opened up to more candidates and matching people to those jobs.  

Sirera said when he talks to employers about the issue, "there is an understanding that the current pathway is broken for so many people. Employers are unsure what to do about it, but they understand there is a problem. When an employer is intentional about solving this problem, we can talk about pathways, we can get candidates into the process, we can re-educate hiring teams to ensure that they are aware of these candidates."

Kelly said adapting development and onboarding resources to support nontraditional new hires is another critical piece of the puzzle. "We know that when we onboard a skills-based hire, who doesn't come from a like-for-like company or vertical retail, then we need to develop a more dynamic program to support their development and success with the role, team and business," she said. "While skills-based hiring is an important evolutionary shift, it will be equally important that organizations commit to identifying and delivering the right onboarding and training for the role and individual."

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