Mike DeMarco Headshot
Mike DeMarcoFebruary 22, 2024
Topics: Talent Experience

Skills Are A-Changin’ — and So Are Degree Requirements

2024 is a turning point for the move to a skills-based talent acquisition model. For example, 45% of companies plan to eliminate the need for a bachelor's degree in 2024, a trend that continues to increase. Corporations aren’t the only ones championing this push; state officials across the country (including PA and NJ) are also showing us that skills are here to stay.

Today, talent acquisition teams are challenged to fill more roles in less time, all while striking a balance between speed and quality of hire. For roles where a degree isn’t essential to the job function, the removal of the bachelor's degree requirement and a shift to building teams based on skill sets allows one to not get distracted by tertiary qualifications like past education, but to focus instead on what is truly needed for success from the job candidate. As time from requisition to hire decreases, the need to evaluate talent based on skills data becomes even more important to hire quickly and confidently.

What does this mean for your organization?

Change takes a moment to get used to, and moving away from bachelor's degree requirements to a skills-based model is a massive paradigm shift. But a skills-first approach has many benefits for organizations:

More candidates can be considered for open roles. The data doesn’t lie. Removing degree requirements means larger talent pools. Thirty-seven percent of Americans over 25 have bachelor's degrees, which means you could be missing out on 63% of the population looking for work if you’re only pulling from that pool. On top of that, as many as 93% of managers claim finding the talent that meets their needs is difficult. The shift from removing bachelor's degree requirements to skills is one key way organizations can overcome talent shortages and broaden talent pools at the same time.

Precision hiring based on job function and necessary outcomes ensures the right fit faster. Another benefit of moving from degree-based hiring to skills-based hiring is that organizations can effectively identify and hire based on the practical functions of the role. Skills-based hiring provides the necessary data to validate your hiring based on the right fit and needed expertise.

Resumes, references, and cover letters are legacy resources that have been used to validate talent for decades. As skills and job requirements are ever-evolving, talent acquisition teams need to find a new, more agile approach that allows them to source, screen, and secure talent before the competition. Skills-based hiring is that competitive edge.

Pro Tip: When reviewing resumes, see if the candidate highlighted any recent personal projects or work-related hobbies to evaluate what skills they are investing in.

Internal talent’s skills can be better leveraged to support critical business needs now and in the future. Focusing on skills not only makes it possible to clearly understand the scope of work needed for the roles you are filling, but it also allows you to leverage internal talent and plan for the future. Skills-based hiring allows you to identify where talent may be in your organization and can help identify potential skills gaps you may need to train for. When you know the skills required, you can develop more agile training strategies, such as online training and video courses, to accelerate your onboarding process. This ensures that your talent is armed with the education they need to do their job successfully — while cutting back on costly churn.

If degrees are no longer needed, how can talent be measured?

Skills and data. Top companies are accounting for this mix to streamline their hiring, growth, and retention processes. Most importantly, many of your peers are already there: Out of 800 U.S. employers, 80% said they were “very likely” or “likely” to favor work experience over education when assessing job candidate applications. In addition, 81% said it’s important for recent college graduates to have work experience.

And the lack of degree requirements doesn’t mean resumes are obsolete. Skills and achievements can become the focal point of resumes instead. Skills and experience are not an alternative but a better way forward. They give a current snapshot of a candidate’s abilities and achievements that a prestigious degree can not always provide.

Pro Tip: Use LinkedIn to further validate candidates based on endorsements and skills to confirm they have the skills and character to align with your organization.

Here are four Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) beyond a degree that can help you qualify a candidate:

  1. Consider hiring someone with no degree and a long tenure. The length of time at a company is a great metric to determine if a candidate has a strong work history. Retaining talent is more cost-effective than hiring new employees, so if you have to hire outside your organization, consider employment tenure to be a leading indicator as to whether or not your investment will pan out.

  2. Consider when their last investment was in their professional development. Lifelong learners lend themselves to the curiosity needed to progress and adapt as new skills emerge for their roles.

  3. Ask candidates to demonstrate and share clear examples of current projects with outcomes. This will allow you to know exactly where the candidate is in their career progression.

  4. Ask for a portfolio (if applicable). Seeing how a candidate presents, thinks, and collaborates is a strong indicator to get a pulse on their skills and how they align with team needs.

How can you transition to a skills-forward organization?

There is a complexity to transitioning to a skills-forward model. It’s easier to validate a degree versus a skillset. Skills are ever-changing, and evaluating your organization's skills can be daunting.

To establish a healthy skills-based model for your hiring, you need a mix of knowing the skills necessary for the job function, along with the required data to drive decisions. This model allows organizations to see where they can upskill or hire within to save costs on hiring a new employee and limit the risk of the wrong fit.

A skills-first approach also bolsters confidence in knowing when to look externally to hire because you are honed in on the necessary skills you are looking for in the role. Knowing who you are looking for, and what is needed from an external hire, can allow for a more successful long-term hire because you're validating candidate fit based on data.

Related reading: How Skills Technology Drives Talent Acquisition Excellence

How do you balance skills and data to stay ahead of the trend?

Skills have become the currency of work. Phenom Workforce Intelligence gives users the power of skills and data in one platform:

  • Attract candidates using a personalized career site where visitors can upload a resume that will be intelligently parsed and build skills-based profiles that output recommendations for relevant work opportunities.

  • Recruiters can benefit from using a chatbot to engage and qualify candidates. Fit Scores are then provided based on the inputs supplied by the job seeker. Adding an extra layer of assurance that the right fit is moving along the hiring process.

  • Managers leverage skills data using Fit Score to hire faster, reskill current talent, and upskill talent for future opportunities, providing a holistic solution that promotes the vitality of their team.

  • Employees accelerate their careers using skills suggestions, where they can address skills gaps in their professional development through online courses, mentorships, and gigs or short-term projects that give employees the experience necessary for that skill.


Sign up for a complimentary Skills Snapshot today to take your next step at building a skills-based organization. Get a view of your organization’s roles, skills, and progressions and learn how to implement, deploy, and adopt tech that will drive your talent management goals.

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