Redefining talent acquisition in tech with a skills-focused strategy

Shot of a group of professionals waiting for a job interview, talent acquisition concept


Traditional hiring methods have become barriers, excluding diverse talent. Kady Marriott, Associate Partner at WithYouWithMe, advocates for a skills-first approach to recruitment, emphasising demonstrated abilities and potential.

Traditional hiring techniques, underpinned by conventional experience-based methods, have become barriers rather than enablers in recruiting the best talent.

Globally, we place enormous value on CVs, including what school you went to and what your last job was, as a predictor of someone’s suitability for a role. Naturally, this relies heavily on a candidate’s ability to encapsulate their history into a two-page document. This ultimately equates to someone marking their own homework. And to add to this, even the best CVs can struggle to get past automated filtering bots, meaning great people miss out on their best opportunity to shine – an interview.

Overlooked and underserved areas of society including military veterans, neurodivergent individuals, refugees, military spouses and women are often overlooked for roles because of these outdated recruitment methods.

Kady Marriott, Associate Partner at WithYouWithMe looks at why it’s time that we prioritised a skills-first approach to recruitment.

Kady, is a dedicated veteran spouse who is committed to assisting typically underrepresented individuals in their pursuit of employment. She firmly believes that every individual harbours a unique purpose and a valuable set of skills essential to prospective employers and in her role as Associate Partner at WithYouWithMe, is committed to empowering individuals to unleash their full potential through support and training.

Defining the skills-based hiring approach

Skills-based hiring is a progressive approach to recruitment that prioritises a candidate’s demonstrated ability, which not only includes the skills they’ve already learned, but also their aptitude and the skills they have the potential to acquire, relevant to where the business is headed.

Instead of relying solely on CVs and credentials, skills-first hiring uses data-driven assessments, aptitude tests, and evaluations to identify a candidate’s relevant skills and suitability for a variety of roles. By emphasising capabilities, a skills-first approach is able to reduce unconscious bias in the hiring process, opening up opportunities to a more diverse pool of candidates, and enabling organisations to find the best fit for each position based on a candidate’s actual skills and potential to succeed.

Importantly, this also opens up a whole new world of possibilities. The ability to pursue roles and careers that they didn’t think existed or were within reach. This broadens the talent pool by showing people what they’re capable of, the types of projects and passions it could lead to and crucially, how to get there. The art of the possible in a whole new light.

The advantages of moving away from traditional methods

According to a recent LinkedIn report, employers witness talent pools expanding nearly tenfold when they adopt a skills-first hiring strategy. This surge in potential talent is particularly crucial in an era where digital skills are in high demand.

In addition, Harvard Business School and Accenture recently collaborated on a study, revealing that 88% of hirers admitted to rejecting highly skilled candidates solely because they lack traditional credentials like specific job titles or university degrees. This situation is deeply concerning as it places an unjust burden on minority communities who may lack the financial means to access traditional education, or individuals who thrive through hands-on learning rather than traditional classroom settings.

Despite the evident advantages of a skills-first approach, including broader talent pools, enhanced diversity of thought, and increased opportunity equality, the methodology is yet to be utilised on a wide scale. To effectively implement a lasting and impactful skills-first strategy, organisations need to consider more than just a shift in HR practices; it requires a broader, more thoughtful change management program.

There are five key aspects of an impactful skills-first approach to support equal, fair and effective talent acquisition and retention.

Establish a company-wide skills framework

The first crucial step is to establish a universally agreed-upon skills framework across the organisation. This involves standardising the required competencies for each role and at all levels, which can be done through an existing framework or adopting the globally recognised Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA). Creating a skills taxonomy provides a common language throughout the skills management cycle that defines the skills and competencies required for organisations to succeed. Businesses can then assess performance to get a clear view of the existing skills and identify gaps and opportunities that require filling.

Overcoming the CV-hiring limitations

Once skills gaps are identified, the next step is to address them effectively. Whether seeking internal candidates through upskilling or looking to external sources of talent, a skills-first approach means moving away from traditional hiring methods that rely heavily on employment history and formal qualifications. Here, the limitations of CVs are two-fold, if previous roles have required a CV and therefore relevant experience, the particular candidate will become repeatedly overlooked.

Unless the spiral is ended.

Instead, job descriptions should be streamlined to specify the particular skills required and their corresponding proficiency levels. This simplification is made possible by aligning the requirements with the skills framework set out above. By assessing candidates on their current skill set and their potential to excel in the desired areas, organisations can build a high-performing workforce.

Leveraging data to assess role compatibility

To measure fit-to-role accurately and objectively, organisations can implement psychometric and aptitude assessments. By using these assessments, organisations can mitigate the inherent biases associated with CV-led hiring and other traditional recruitment methods. This data-driven approach promotes equal access to opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds and facilitates consistent hiring decisions based on objective data.

Implementing fast upskilling programs

When candidates demonstrate potential for a role but lack certain essential skills, organisations can implement rapid upskilling programs to bridge the gap and achieve job readiness. A skills-first approach is not merely about acquiring talent that comes ‘ready-made’; it also involves nurturing individuals to succeed in high-demand areas and addressing broader workforce skills gaps.

The growing accessibility of high-quality online learning, certification programs, apprenticeships, and other training options enables organisations to cultivate essential skills in their current employees and tap into more extensive talent pools. These cost-effective, accelerated internal programs are essential for constructing a workforce prepared for sustained future growth, benefiting both individuals and the overall business.

Fostering employee retention through professional growth

Referring back to LinkedIn’s ‘Skills-First’ report, it was highlighted that the employees who made internal moves within their organisations after two years had a 75% chance of staying with the company, compared to 56% for those who hadn’t. Moreover, research indicates that businesses that excel in enabling internal mobility retain employees for an average of 5.4 years, almost twice as long as those that do not.

Providing employees with opportunities to learn and grow is crucial for preparing businesses for the future while ensuring employee engagement. Taking things to the next level, organisations have the opportunity to create visual career pathways, akin to a GPS, illustrating the diverse routes to success for their talent. This proactive approach enhances both capability and performance, empowering employees not only to advance vertically but also to pivot across roles as the organisation’s needs evolve. In doing so, it enriches their skillset and elevates their overall value.

The continuous evolution of technology and the digital skills shortage pose significant challenges for organisations in talent management and development. It is becoming increasingly clear that a shift towards a skills-centric approach is required to truly maximise hiring potential. By actively addressing skills gaps and implementing comprehensive strategies, businesses can strengthen their teams and tap into the hidden talent found in the marginalised segments of society.

This transformative approach not only enhances an organisation’s ability to thrive in a digital world but also ensures opportunities are accessible to a wider array of individuals. In turn, this will nurture a more inclusive and diverse working environment, ultimately creating a more promising future for everyone involved.


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