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Skills-Based Hiring Guidance Issued for Federal Jobs

A man and woman are having a conversation in an office.
​The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has issued guidance on adopting skills-based hiring practices to fill federal government jobs. Historically, the government has based a candidate's hiring eligibility on formal education or candidates' assessments of how their skills related to educational requirements.

Skills-based hiring broadens the labor pool, according to Kiran Ahuja, OPM director.

"By focusing on what an applicant can do—and not where they learned to do it—skills-based hiring will expand talent pools by making it easier for applicants without a bachelor's degree to demonstrate their skills," Ahuja said in a news release, "and will help remove barriers to employment for historically underrepresented groups."

The OPM noted that presently, "most agencies use federal resumes and an occupational questionnaire to screen applicants for minimum qualifications. A 'deeper dive' needs to be taken in order to address the actual competencies needed to perform work successfully." 

[SHRM members-only resource: How to Address the Skills Gap

Skills-based hiring and the value of alternative credentials have been receiving increasing attention in recent years as organizations struggle to fill positions in the midst of the Great Resignation.

SHRM Online compiled the following news stories and resources about the use of skills-based hiring approaches. 

Skills-Based Hiring Is on the Rise

Early in the 2000s, a significant number of employers began adding degree requirements to job descriptions for positions that hadn't previously required degrees, even though the jobs themselves hadn't changed. The trend became particularly pronounced after the Great Recession of 2008-2009, at which point leaders in government, business and community-based organizations recognized that a reset was in order. Many large corporations soon announced that they would eliminate degree requirements in much of their hiring.
(Harvard Business Review 

In Search for Qualified Workers, Maryland Drops Requirement for Four-Year Degree

Maryland's recent elimination of a four-year college degree as a job requirement for thousands of the state's jobs is shining a spotlight on the value of alternative credentials and experience.

The aim of the state initiative—which the governor's office says is the first of its kind in the U.S.—is to ensure that "qualified, non-degree candidates are regularly being considered for these career-changing opportunities," Gov. Larry Hogan said in a news release.
(SHRM Online)   

Next Steps for HR Professionals, Hiring Managers

Nationally, nearly half of all U.S. workers possess some form of an alternative credential, according to a new report, Making Alternative Credentials Work: A New Strategy for HR Professionals.

The findings are from research the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the SHRM Foundation conducted with executives, supervisors, HR professionals and employees. The report includes recommendations for better identifying job candidates who have the skills that organizations seek.
(SHRM Online)   

No College Degree? No Problem. More Companies Are Eliminating Requirements to Attract the Workers They Need

The tech industry has been plagued by chronic talent shortages for years. Now many companies are trying something new: eliminating degree requirements for jobs. A growing number of companies, including many in tech, are dropping the requirement for a bachelor's degree for many middle-skill and even higher-skill roles, according to a recent study from Harvard Business Review and Emsi Burning Glass, a leading labor market data company. More than 51 million jobs posted between 2017 and 2020 were analyzed for the study.

Skills-Based Hiring and Older Workers

In response to a perceived skills gap, employers are increasingly hiring workers based on their specific skills and competencies. Skills-based hiring could disadvantage older workers, particularly those with low wages, if their skills are no longer relevant, or it could benefit them if they have the desired skills but not college degrees.

A review of research studies and semi-structured interviews with stakeholders suggest that skills-based hiring could help reduce age-related bias in hiring and in the workplace and could help low-wage older workers overcome challenges stemming from the lack of a traditional degree or the inability to change careers. To do this, however, the skills-based hiring paradigm must undergo changes.
(Urban Institute

Bipartisan Bill Aims to Improve Federal Hiring

A trio of lawmakers recently proposed new legislation building on a Trump-era executive order to reform the federal hiring process. The bill prioritizes candidate evaluations based on knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies while limiting the use of education when determining if someone is qualified for a role. It also facilitates the use of more robust assessments over the self-assessment questionnaires currently used for nearly all federal jobs. 
(SHRM Online)

The Shift to Skills-Based Hiring Instead of Degree-Based Hiring Is Finally Happening! Here's Why

The pandemic upended some long-held beliefs while hastening others. One thing that has come out of the public health crisis is that acquiring industry-oriented skills has become the new degree equivalent. It might be safe to say that the pandemic may have cracked degree inflation and caused prominent hiring managers to become more careful about recognizing critical job skills and "vetting in" talent by validating skills.

Skills-based hiring that accelerated during the pandemic has now become a trend and is here to stay.

(India Today)

Tips for Finding Skilled, Non-Degreed Workers

Businesses across the U.S. need to adapt their hiring practices so they don't miss out on the more than 70 million workers who are skilled through alternative routes (STARs), according to Bridgette Gray, chief customer officer at Opportunity@Work, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes STARs.

Gray advises hiring managers on strategies for recruiting skilled workers who don't hold college degrees. Making STARs an intentional part of talent strategy, she said, involves:

Incentivizing managers to hire and promote people who are STARs. "Recognize they may perceive risks in hiring STARs, and counter their concerns by letting them know this is an intentional strategy," Gray said. 

Looking at the workers you employ. There may be employees with the skills to move up within your organization.

"The way to create those opportunities—and open opportunities to STARs outside of your company—is to remove unnecessary degree requirements from job descriptions. This is the biggest blocker for STARs and the primary reason employers don't see STARs across their companies," Gray said.

Encouraging hiring managers to target STARs for specific roles, then partnering with talent developers to create new pathways into the organization.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.