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Hiring by Skills Instead of Titles

Beth Cobert, Chief Operating Officer at Markle Foundation, addresses what companies should do differently to benefit from diverse talent.

The Woman Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou

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Former President Barack Obama appointed Beth Cobert as acting director of the United States Office of Personnel Management on July 10, 2015. Before this position, she worked at the United States Office of Management and Budget. There, she led the efforts to drive the president's management plan to make the government more effective and efficient. Under her leadership, the administration made progress in modernizing federal information technology management, improving citizen-facing services, and strengthening cybersecurity across national systems.

In an interview with McKinsey Accelerate, Cobert recommended that the first thing employers should do when hiring people is that "they should look for skills, not credentials."

Finding a good job candidate isn't easy, so companies need to have a critical eye, know what they're looking for, identify it, target it, and then get them in the door.

Be clear on what you're looking for in a candidate

Have a clear image in your head of the exact type of person who will fit in your company from a technical and personality perspective. Go ahead and create a visual of this person in your mind but at the same time be flexible because you may not always get what you're looking for.

When viewing the profiles, look for the right things

Cobert claims that successful companies should write job descriptions that are focused on skills instead of simply hiring a person for having many titles and plenty of experience.

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Be clear with what you're looking for and focus on detail

The Chief Operating Officer gives an example of a precision-lens manufacturer company that works with the Markle Foundation's Skillful initiative. The critical skill this company needs in an employee includes manual dexterity. According to Cobert, they realized that the best place to find this talent is in nail manicurist or in people skilled at cooking like sushi chefs. This is an excellent example of focusing on skills over credentials.

The expert also points out that before building a more diverse workforce, it is essential to take care and explore the employees' skills and potential already working on the company.

How to recruit the best candidate?

The key to finding, attracting, and recruiting the best job candidates is knowing how to bait them. Job descriptions should be attractive and compelling to job candidates. If you're looking for that fantastic top-on-the-line candidate, so are many other hire managers and companies. Because of that, these candidates have the luxury to be picky, and they don't necessarily have to interview for your company if your job description isn't all attractive to them. Summarize the job before getting into the details. Instead, take a closer look at the candidate's skills. Describe the position's overall purpose and what goal this job is meant to achieve for the company. The key to making things meaningful is explaining why this person will be doing what they'll be doing.

One of the reasons Cobert's company, Markle, has such a diverse and talented workforce is because they are focused on helping the 70% of people in the US who don't have a bachelor's degree but they can join the company based on their skills.

Cobert told McKinsey Accelerate, "we believe that these individuals have immense talents and capabilities, and we're working to find ways for them to be recognized for those skills, to bring them to employers, and to be able to have high-quality jobs that can sustain them and their families."