The skills gap isn’t going away any time soon. There are plenty of reasons why this gap exists, and some industries are affected more than others. But what many employers continue to face is simply a lack of applicants with the correct collection of qualifications. As industries shift to accommodate new developments in technology, millions of American workers are left jobless with skills that are seemingly useless for a lot of available positions.
But are these skills truly useless?
The traditional hiring process relies heavily on an applicant’s prior skill set, or what he or she already knows how to do. To many employers, for example, an individual who has experience in retail is not, on paper, the best candidate for a job in tech sales. However, that person may possess transferable skills that could signal high potential for that sales position – customer service and communication skills, for example. The same applies to job seekers with skills such as critical thinking, interpersonal skills, and leadership ability, all of which have value in nearly every industry.
These amorphous skills, often referred to as soft skills, can be hard to evaluate from a resume. But for companies that struggle to find perfectly qualified applicants, these soft skills are critical for identifying people who have the most potential to succeed. Once these underlying abilities are identified, on-the-job training can fill in the rest of the gaps.
As a hiring manager, judging new applicants based on soft skills that can be transferable to a particular role is often easier said than done. Learning to spot them can be time consuming with traditional hiring processes, but there are several helpful tools available for your candidate search.
The O*NET database, for example, is a U.S. Department of Labor tool that allows you to determine the skills associated with a variety of jobs and industries. By identifying overlapping skills in the positions you need to fill and the skills held by your candidates, you can find the applicants with the skills best suited for your position.
Pre-employment tests offer a more reliable way to directly measure transferable skills that can help you find the candidates with the most potential. Cognitive aptitude tests, for instance, are far more predictive of job performance than resumes because they get to the core of a candidate’s critical thinking, problem solving, and ability to learn and apply new information. What this means is that a person who scores well in cognitive aptitude is more likely to be able to quickly pick up training, regardless of their previously acquired hard skills.
Personality tests provide another angle at which to evaluate potential, by identifying applicants who would be a good fit in a particular role. Together, cognitive aptitude and personality assessments can widen your applicant pool by highlighting the applicants you may have overlooked, especially if you administer them at the beginning of the hiring process.
Ultimately not every type of role can be filled simply by testing for soft skills and supplementing the rest of a candidate’s skills with training. Many roles, particularly highly skilled or mid-career roles, do require a certain level of job experience and acquired skills. But if the skills gap is preventing your organization from filling roles, pre-employment assessments can help direct you to the candidates with the most potential, even if their resumes aren’t perfect.