Why The Future of Work Does Not Include Skill Testing

There is another option for a more equitable and efficient skill-based future

Skills-based recruiting is the future of work. The concept continues to gain traction, and with good cause. According to LinkedIn's recent report, focusing on skills instead of proxies for talent like education requirements and past job titles "led on average to a 9.4x increase in eligible workers across all jobs".

But positive changes in how we approach recruiting are not being met with changes in how we evaluate the skills that are at the core of this movement. Instead, an increased reliance on skill testing is taking shape. There are several reasons why this is not a sustainable path forward:

  • Skill testing isn't always equitable: people with more money have greater access to tools designed specifically to answer common skill test questions. They can also more easily absorb the time investment required to prepare for and take skill assessment tests at multiple interviews.
  • Skill testing can’t keep up with the pace at which new skills are introduced and existing skills evolve. The results of skill tests can quickly become stale.
  • Skill testing puts an undue burden on candidates who must, at every interview, re-prove proficiencies that they have already proven on the job.
  • Skill tests do not effectively replicate the work environment where those skills are actually used.
  • The general concept of determining a person's skills through testing will never be as effective as observing that person perform those skills directly on the job.
  • Skill testing increases the length of interviews. A longer interview process typically results in fewer applicants.
  • The first search result for “skill assessment test” is usually “skill assessment test answers”.

What other options are there?

Internal candidates are often the easiest candidates to make informed hiring decisions about. That’s because data about their skills has been noted firsthand by those they work with. This valuable information didn’t require building and administering multiple skill tests, it just required observation of day-to-day work.

What if that information was not only tracked more effectively, but was also globally available as part of a coordinated effort to improve hiring for all participants? If we validate what people have learned on the job in this way, then:

  • Candidates would be able to point to what skills they’ve already demonstrated without additional work. A focus on already-proven skills allows all candidates to show up equally for a given opportunity.
  • Recruiters could quickly understand the comparative skills of candidates in a community-standardized way, so they could not only more effectively match candidates to opportunities, but could also spend more time building relationships up instead of screening candidates out.
  • Employers could understand their employees at a more atomic and quantitative skill level. This would allow them to more easily track skill progress, support specific skill growth through continuing education, pair mentors/mentees with complementary skills, democratize the promotion process, identify and address skill gaps, and recognize opportunities for skill transference from one role to another.

Skills-based practices are the future of work. But they must be built on a more solid, standardized, and equitable foundation of skill assessment. A better understanding of the skills that candidates have already demonstrated on the job can provide that foundation.