Hiring for potential: Tackling the tech skills shortage

Human,Resources,Interview,Recruitment,Job,Concept

Written by Claudia Cohen, Head of Commercial, Futureproof

With so much disruption within the tech sector, now is the time for companies to reconsider their hiring strategy. How can businesses look beyond CVs and experience and start hiring with potential at the forefront?

The skills crisis in tech is ongoing, and poses a huge challenge for businesses looking to hire top talent. Despite there being nearly 3 million people working in tech jobs across the UK, and 100,000s of vacancies every day, hiring managers are struggling to find people with the right talent. Among our audience at this panel alone, 95% were experiencing an internal skills shortage.

In an ideal world, finding the right candidate straight away would of course be preferable. However, with every company looking for the same people, and with salaries inflating rapidly as a result of the skills gap, this sort of hiring is simply not sustainable – the process has become more and more difficult, and will continue to do so as demand for skilled tech workers rises.

So, what does that mean in terms of hiring? We believe companies have two choices:

  1. Keep chasing for the perfect candidate that has the right skills and is within your budget range
  2. Hire for potential and train people up, building skills so they can take on these roles

How does hiring for potential work?

Hiring for potential is about looking beyond experience and spotting an individual’s potential for growth by reviewing their current skillset, as well as their attitude, characteristics and behaviours.

Adding in a behavioural assessment may seem like a daunting task for those used to traditional interview stages, and some may be concerned that this added bit of process would turn people off applying.

Take your entire assessment process away; start with behavioural assessment and then work out what else you need rather than trying to add it as an additional piece. You almost need to start from ground zero and look at behaviours – what do I need in terms of testing their motivation; testing what skills they may be developing? – rather than fully developed skills. Take away anything where somebody may have already had training and exposure to some of these skills unless you really need that for day one.

In order to assess transferable skills (things like aptitude, willingness to learn, problem-solving ability, and the right drive and passion for the role) without unconscious bias, you will need an objective assessment tool. Looking outside of particular experience and allowing yourself to open up to anybody who feels that they have these behavioural or ‘soft’ skills presents a different way of solving hiring issues – one that focuses on drawing in people from a much wider group, using a different mindset, and expanding the pool that you source candidates from.

We have already implemented a proprietary assessment tool in partnership with Arctic Shores as part of their rigorous process for applicants to their full-stack web development academy. Ultimately, volume of candidates for us at futureproof is not as important as time to competency, speed of impact, and sustainability of that hire (dropout rates).​

Why now?

Many among our audience may still be questioning the need for this change. Why, after so many years of tried and tested, experience-focused assessment, do we need to turn hiring on its head?

  1. New roles emerging
    There are lots of emerging roles within areas such as customer success, digital marketing, blockchain and data analysis, some of which there may be no past experience for them because they’re so new. As such, the obvious next step is to look at skills – things like an analytical approach which will help in data roles, or high empathy which is crucial for customer-facing roles.
  2. Skills shortage
    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the current skills crisis truly is at the crux of today’s hiring issues. In the past, organisations didn’t need to look outside of immediately relevant talent pools and as such weren’t able to appreciate that someone with experience in a completely different sector would be able to possess great transferrable skills and capabilities.
  3. Careers are changing
    Average tenure in a role has fallen significantly over recent years, especially among younger generations. People are changing jobs at a higher rate than ever before, but it is this feeling of adaptability and hunger to change and to learn rather than something predetermined that helps people get new roles.

How can hiring for potential aid D&I?

The standard CV plus cover letter format is an institutionalised approach which is reflecting the same way we were probably all examined at schoolIt’s time to challenge these norms and stop recognising only certain types of intelligence that we’ve been conditioned to attribute so much value to. The more diverse your workforce is, the better – it’s not only the right thing to invest in on a personal level, it’s also been proven to yield positive business results.

Tackling diversity doesn’t just happen during hiring, however – it’s also about the image the company is projecting to potential employees. It’s about scrutinising everything from your senior management to your supply chain, and most importantly, the culture you’re marketing – is it inclusive for all groups?


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