Changing Perspectives: Why You Should Hire Skills and not Job Experience

As the pandemic impacts certain sectors more than others, it makes sense to start hiring based on skills which can be applied to different jobs rather than specific industry experience. Here’s why.

Many of Singapore’s key sectors such as aviation, tourism, retail, hospitality, entertainment, food and beverage, marine and offshore, and construction have been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic, resulting in cost-cutting measures and retrenchments. Additionally, local companies like Grab, RWS and Eagle Services Asia have held large-scale retrenchment exercises, with more set to do the same.

It follows that many former employees will now be looking for jobs, and importantly, for jobs outside their sectors. Some seek to switch careers to the up-and-coming medtech or food supply fields, while others may simply want something to tide over this period. (Read up on our tips for framing retrenchment!)

Whatever the reason, these applicants will be moving from one industry to another. Hence, a focus on industry-relevant experience in the hiring process will likely impede their job search. Instead, companies hiring today should focus on skills needed for a job rather than where a candidate has worked before.

Why should companies hire based on skills?

The traditional practice of hiring based on “where you worked and what you worked on” is not only detrimental to the applicant but to the employee as well. This is because:

  • There are many common skill sets that apply across industries. Team management and problem solving skills are honed in a variety of settings and easily apply to many jobs. A well-known example would be how many cabin crew were employed in junior healthcare roles as they possessed a thorough knowledge of customer service and empathy.
  • Skills are difficult to learn and cultivate, but industry knowledge is comparatively easier to teach. An experienced person can “tweak” his or her knowledge to suit due to long experience. (Social media is now awash with stories of emcees taking up online auctions and streaming.) Hence, by bringing such a person on board, all you have to teach them is the final step – knowledge about your company – a much easier prospect than starting from scratch.
  • Those outside the industry can bring fresh, new perspectives. Any company long-established in its line runs the risk to stagnating. Processes become entrenched, company culture develops in a certain way, and before you know it hiring, task assignment and organisation are all locked in a certain direction. Bringing in people from outside the industry can open eyes to new perspectives and ways of doing things, and provide that essential push to innovation necessary for anyone to stay afloat in the current situation.

How do I hire based on skills?

For companies that want to start skills-based hiring, the first place to look is at the kind of job ads being posted. Do they follow the old formula of “XX years of experience in XX industry”? If so, it is time to revise them according to what tasks the person is expected to perform and listing associated skills. For example, a project manager position may require team leadership skills, which could be learnt in many different industries.

It is also helpful to advertise your company’s openness to those seeking a fresh start. Some companies make sure to note “no experience required” or “willing to consider equivalent skills” in their job descriptions to tell potential applicants they are open.

You may also wish to optimise your search function through a tool like TextKernel, which allows you to customise your search to just the relevant skills. With this tool, you can divide criteria into “necessary” or “nice to have” and let it sort the candidates for you. This way, you can prioritise the necessary skills for the job rather than look through a candidate’s list of ex-employers.

Skill-based hiring is the path to the future for many companies and applicants. Join in today!

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