The Rise of Super Skills and Micro-skills: What Recruiters Need to Know

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A recent article in the Financial Times signaled the end of education-based recruiting as we know it. 

Hiring managers and recruiters have traditionally looked to a candidate’s GPA and the reputational background of their university or degree when making a hiring decision. But, too often these metrics are subjective and make it difficult to compare two candidates. Who’s to say whether a 3.8 GPA at Harvard is truly worse than a 3.9 GPA at Yale? 

Either way, the GPA tells recruiters very little about a candidate’s ability to complete the job requirements. “GPA is an average of someone’s scholastic achievement. By definition, an average says very little—and, more critically, doesn’t answer the pivotal business question: ‘Can this person do this work or perform that task successfully?’” notes one blogger.

A list of degrees and qualifications actually offers very little information to help recruiters make the right hiring decision. Luckily, more and more talent acquisition specialists are starting to realize this and adjusting their recruitment strategy accordingly. 

The problem: using education as a predictor of performance

Historically, the reputation of your educational institution could count in your favor as recruiters sought to compare the qualifications of entry-level candidates. But the job market has changed: the most in-demand skills of today are more specialized. 

LinkedIn analyzed hundreds of thousands of job postings to determine the top skills employers were seeking in 2019. Hard skills and soft skills are equally valued by most companies, with the following 10 skills being the most commonly sought: 

  • Cloud computing
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Analytical reasoning
  • People management 
  • UX design
  • Creativity
  • Persuasion
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Time management

While some university courses can offer background in some of these skills – cloud computing and artificial intelligence, for instance – educational institutions are slow to adapt to the changing needs of the job market. Hackerrank, for instance, pointed out the skills gap that recent university computer science graduates face. In 2018, JavaScript was the most well-known and popular coding language. But, student developers aren’t learning JavaScript; it simply isn’t offered at most computer science programs. 

Even when a student graduates with top marks, companies are finding an obvious skill gap between academic performance and real-world experience. “More than a third of companies warn that graduates with no previous work experience are unlikely to be successful, irrespective of their academic achievements or the university they attended, according to High Fliers Research,” writes the Financial Times

How is recruiting evolving?

If educational reputation or grades are not a good predictor of on-the-job success, what can recruiters do improve how they screen candidates? 

Google, Apple, and IBM are just a few top companies that no longer require applicants to have a college degree. Instead, companies are turning to skill tests to help evaluate each applicant in the hiring process. Coding challenges, mock sales calls submitted via one-way video interview, and immersive task-related scenarios all provide an accurate assessment of how well a candidate can perform the requirements of the job. 

More than 4,000 companies use skills assessments on Vervoe, providing us with a lot of data around the efficacy of this approach to recruiting. Here are a few high-level stats we’ve learned: 

  • Over 80% of companies use a skills assessment that is uniquely tailored to their requirements.
  • Over 50% of companies want to test soft skills, not personality. 
  • More than 90% of candidates prefer to be given an opportunity to prove their skills rather than be judged on their résumé.
  • Vervoe’s platform is 83% accurate in predicting top performers across all job types, no matter what your industry.

The job market is turning to skill tests to ensure their new hires are set up to succeed. It’s time for recruiters to reframe the way they look at a candidate’s background. 

Trends in recruiting: super skills and micro-skills

There’s a shift in how recruiters must think about a candidate’s qualifications. Instead of considering grades and degrees, micro-skills and super skills should be at the forefront of the hiring process. 

Super skills are defined by one expert as “the ‘components’ that make up the unique ‘operating system’ of a person.” Things like critical thinking, creativity, coachability, leadership, and problem-solving qualify as super skills. 

Micro-skills, on the other hand, are “the ‘apps’ that the person ‘runs’ (or could run) on their unique super skills ‘operating system.’ These are the things a person can do really well (or learn to do), given their unique super skills footprint.” Micro-skills are things like graphic design, project management, QA testing, cold calling, or software development. 

While super skills and micro-skills might feel abstract, there are some key benefits to framing a candidate evaluation through this lens. First and foremost, super skills and micro-skills are above bias: they transcend race, gender, age, and socioeconomics. No matter where a candidate went to school or how well they performed in class, every individual has a unique set of super skills and micro-skills. Assessments designed to evaluate these two skills categories can overcome human bias inherent in resumes and interviews. Every applicant who goes through a Talent Trial has an equal chance to show their ability, regardless of what their resume says.

We’ve seen firsthand the proven success of this approach. Vervoe’s tools work: companies who switched to our AI tool and skills assessments saw a 62% increase in female candidates. Learn more about the rise in skill-based recruiting in our ultimate guide to skill testing.

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