How To Build A Stronger Workforce? Hire for Skills, Not Schools

The Opportunity Divide in America is real, and it seems impossible to overcome. But employers who think differently about talent acquisition can both find stronger, more diverse talent pools and join the movement to close that Divide in our country.

A few weeks ago I had the distinct honor of giving a keynote at the world’s leading conference for talent acquisition practitioners, LinkedIn’s Talent Connect. Thousands of team leads and managers came together in Las Vegas to learn about new trends in talent acquisition, best practices in developing a stronger workforce, and most importantly how to find and keep the talent they need to stay competitive. These individuals understand that diversity is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a business imperative. Building a diverse workforce is proven to increase productivity by ensuring that the best candidates can get in the door, but what I found from talking to attendees after the keynote is that many employers simply aren’t aware of how their hiring filters can be barriers preventing them from seeing skilled, motivated job candidates.

Linked in event

Year Up Founder and CEO Gerald Chertavian at LinkedIn Talent Connect 2016.

If a job requisition says a bachelor’s degree is “required,” not “preferred,” it immediately excludes 77% of African-Americans and 84% of Latinos in America. It prevents employers from considering the tremendous talent resident within those populations, all because they consider a bachelor’s degree a proxy for skills. We know that this is not holding true as educational institutions are increasingly disconnected from the real and growing skills needs for employers, and it’s time for employers to disrupt the market by thinking differently about how they identify and screen potential employees.

There is one simple thing employers can do that will strengthen their recruiting practices while opening the door for talent to get in their organizations: hire for skills, not schools. A recent study done by Innovate + Educate found that only 1% of unemployed young adults in New Mexico were eligible for a job posting that required a college degree. When assessed by skills alone, 33% – one in three! – young adults were eligible. Imagine the talent we’re missing out on, and the opportunities to advance we aren’t providing, simply due to a less sophisticated hiring process. Finding ways to assess candidates on their skills during the interview process – and not filtering candidates out before that based on proxies for those skills – will help companies build a stronger workforce.

This isn’t to say a bachelor’s degree isn’t a good indicator of some skill, but it’s only one aspect of a person’s qualifications for a job – and not necessarily the most representative or the most accurate. Over the past sixteen years Year Up has enabled thousands of young adults to prove to leading employers that they are the talented, skilled, and motivated employees companies need to stay ahead. None of them had the bachelor’s degree many of those same employers would have initially looked for on their resume. Let’s hope many more companies follow suit.




Gerald Chertavian is the Founder and CEO of Year Up…. You can watch Gerald’s keynote at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect conference here.

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.


Diversity, Hiring & Retention Practices, Skills Gap, Workforce Development,
Related News
View All News
Rya Conrad-Bradshaw Featured on Entrepreneur Weekly Podcast
November 29th, 2017 | By Grads of Life

Click here to listen to the...Read More

More Than What's On Paper: Being Empowered By Change
September 6th, 2017 | By Grads of Life

What I remember most about my school years was playing video games. I don’t remember exactly what my first video game was...Read More

Career Readiness: Whose Responsibility Is It, Anyway?
August 30th, 2017 | By Grads of Life

A funny thing happens during the time students begin to wrap up their college and career-preparation programs and prepare to...Read More