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Skills based hiring is not just about hard skills

Lead consultant at Test Partnership, Ben Schwencke, why skills based hiring is not just about hard skills.

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So there's a lot of misconceptions and a lot of confusion about what we mean by skills based hiring. Okay, a lot of people assume it means you need to focus purely on specific hard skills, whether they know certain programming languages, whether they work with certain software packages, whether they have done some specific orientated training course... That isn't quite what we mean, and it's important to define what we mean by skills.

Soft skills are essential to performance in the workplace. Not just performance, but retention, attrition, satisfaction, engagement. There's a lot to it. A lot more than just specific hard skills. Consequently, you do want to expand the definition. So I would recommend thinking about it in terms of, let's say, hard skills, technical skills, very specific elements of the role that you would pull out from a job analysis.

Then soft skills, certain behavioural constructs and temperaments and dispositions which would help one perform in a particular role or predispose one to stay, find certain types of work engaging, fit an organisational culture. Those are soft skills and those are just as important. In some ways perhaps more so.

And then I would also suggest looking at cognitive skills, looking at overall cognitive abilities, which underpin a person's ability to learn, solve problems, make decisions, and acquire hard skills, both down the line and up until that point. Those three elements are all important, okay? And a skills based hiring approach does not call for you to ignore the other two, quite the opposite.

You want to be assessing for those with quite some urgency, okay, with an experiential hiring approach. All you're doing is asking them about their past. Where did they go for university? What roles have they been in? That isn't addressing skills, but of course you don't want to just be looking at hard skills.

You want to be looking at the breadth of skills. Which means looking at cognitive skills, hard skills, and soft skills. And, in doing so, you avoid the criticism that is typically thrown at skills based hiring.