The Virtual CISO with Brandy Harris

Leadership & Executive Communication , Recruitment & Reskilling Strategy , Training & Security Leadership

The Shift to Skills-Based Hiring

How and Why to Select Candidates Based on Their Real-World Skills
The Shift to Skills-Based Hiring
Image: Getty Images

Traditional hiring methods often emphasize educational background and work experience, and they may not always accurately reflect a candidate's ability to perform in a real-world setting. This has led many forward-thinking companies to adopt skills-based hiring practices.

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The Biden-Harris administration has prioritized this approach, particularly for cybersecurity and IT roles, to address the growing demand for skilled professionals in these fields. In April, the Office of the National Cyber Director encouraged efforts to transition federal and contractor roles to a skills-based framework to fill critical positions more effectively and equitably.

Benefits of a Skills-Based Approach to Hiring

The benefits of selecting an employee by evaluating them from a skills-based perspective include:

  • Predicting job performance: Skills-based interviews focus on a candidate's actual abilities and how they can be applied to the job. This method helps you more accurately predict future job performance than traditional interviews, which often rely heavily on resumes and academic credentials.
  • Reducing hiring bias: By evaluating candidates based on their skills and competencies rather than their educational background or previous job titles, you can help reduce unconscious bias and promote a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
  • Identifying top talent: Skills-based assessments can uncover high-potential candidates who may not have traditional qualifications but possess the necessary skills and drive to excel in the role. This opens the door to a broader talent pool and innovative problem solvers.

How to Implement Skills-Based Hiring

Implementing skills-based hiring requires completing these steps:

  1. Define key skills. Identify the critical skills required for the role. Develop a detailed skills inventory and create a clear taxonomy to categorize these skills. Ensure that job descriptions are updated to reflect these requirements accurately
  2. .
  3. Develop assessments. Create practical assessments that simulate real-world tasks relevant to the job. This could include coding challenges, case studies or project simulations. Design these assessments to test the candidate's ability to apply their skills in practical scenarios.
  4. Standardize the interview process. Conduct structured interviews using standardized questions focused on the skills identified. Behavioral questions should elicit examples of how candidates have applied their skills in past experiences. This consistency helps ensure a fair evaluation process.
  5. Assess soft skills. While technical skills are crucial, soft skills such as communication, teamwork and problem-solving are equally important. Include behavioral questions that assess these abilities within the context of skills-based interviews. Ask candidates to provide examples of how they've navigated challenges, collaborated with others and communicated complex ideas effectively. These insights help gauge their fit within the team and organizational culture.
  6. Train hiring teams. Educate hiring managers and interviewers about the principles of skills-based hiring. Ensure they understand how to evaluate skills effectively and are aligned with the new approach.

Advice for Job Candidates

If you’re preparing for a skills-based interview, remember that this type of interview values demonstrated capability over credentials, so ensure your skills and hands-on experience are front and center.

Focus on demonstrating your practical abilities and real-world experience. Review the job description thoroughly to understand the key skills required and be ready to showcase your proficiency through examples and projects. Practice relevant technical assessments, such as coding challenges or project simulations, and be prepared to explain your problem-solving approach clearly. Highlight how you've applied your skills in previous roles and how they align with the job's requirements.

About the Author

Brandy Harris

Brandy Harris

Director, Learning And Organizational Development,

Harris has more than 20 years of experience in education and is dedicated to evolving the cybersecurity workforce. She develops and evaluates cybersecurity programs. Harris promotes diversity and inclusion in cybersecurity by fostering collaboration between industry and academia, aiming to bridge the talent gap and drive positive change. She previously served as assistant dean and faculty member in the graduate cybersecurity program at Grand Canyon University.

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