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Experience and Education Requirements in Job Postings Decline

Skills-based hiring could be one reason why

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Global jobs board Indeed reported that about 30% of U.S. job postings in April 2024 included a “years of experience” requirement, down from 40% in April 2022. Educational requirements are also on the decline, suggesting that more employers may be turning to a skills-based hiring approach instead of traditional criteria.

“Employers often include experience requirements in job postings to screen for strong candidates, lower training costs, and reduce the risk of hiring unqualified workers,” said Cory Stahle, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab. “Less focus on tenure, in addition to a long-term decline in educational requirements, may give job seekers with the right skills a chance to pursue opportunities that may have previously been closed to them.”

Over the last year, the share of U.S. job postings that did not include any mention of years of experience or that explicitly stated that no experience is OK rose from 60% to 70%, according to Indeed.

The data show that requiring a specific amount of years of experience is most common in job postings for roles in project management, accounting, and engineering. Sectors with less-defined experience requirements include retail, hospitality, and customer service.

U.S. employers are cutting back on formal education requirements, as well. As of January, 52% of U.S. job postings on Indeed didn’t include any educational requirements, up from 48% in 2019. In addition, only 18% required a four-year degree or higher, dropping from 20% in recent years.

“Something notable about the drop in employer demand for college-educated workers was that it was being driven largely by sectors with historically high education requirements,” Stahle said.  “Banking, scientific research, and information design all top the list of sectors with the largest year-over-year drop in college degree requirements. These sectors have also recorded large declines in year-specific experience postings. A statistical analysis showed a strong relationship between sectors with large education requirement declines and those that are shedding tenure requirements.” 

Brian Fisher, Mercer’s global work and skills solution lead, said that while skills have long been included in job requisitions, employers have traditionally relied on degrees as a measure of qualification for a wide range of roles.

“However, our own personal experiences along our career journeys, whether it’s witnessing colleagues with nontraditional backgrounds or recognizing our own diverse responsibilities outside of our university degrees, have cast doubt on the efficacy of a degree-heavy approach,” Fisher said.

Labor market conditions are likely playing a role in employers’ move away from education and years-of-experience requirements.

“For some employers, shedding requirements may be a way to attract new workers,” Stahle said. “It’s also possible that employers are shifting their hiring preferences toward hires with less experience and education—who are also very likely to be less costly—to help control costs in a less-certain economic environment.”

Fisher pointed out that the success of internal talent mobility programs, which have demonstrated the value of skills in identifying and developing talent, may be another factor. “Advancements in talent and skill assessments, coupled with major improvements in skills intelligence, have empowered HR with a more comprehensive toolkit,” he said. “This enables recruiters to conduct a holistic review of candidates, going beyond the traditional focus on degrees.”

It is reasonable to think that the growing awareness of skills-first hiring practices generally may also be driving the decline in education and experience requirements in job postings.

But although skills-based hiring is gaining traction, these job ad changes don’t necessarily reflect a shift in actual hires, according to a revelatory report from The Burning Glass Institute and Harvard Business School. Nearly half of companies who made skills-based hiring announcements haven’t made any real changes to their hiring practices or increased their share of workers without degrees, the researchers found.

A skills-based approach to talent management offers an abundance of strategic and economic benefits for employers and workers, said Ravin Jesuthasan, senior partner and global leader for transformation services at Mercer.

Benefits to employers include stronger recruiting, hiring, and retention capabilities; increased workforce productivity and agility; more effective and efficient talent development and deployment; and optimization of overall labor costs, he said.

Jesuthasan added: “For employees, there’s greater transparency around career progression requirements, improved access to training for skills development, and increased workforce engagement.”


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