White House urges agencies to focus on hiring skills


The Biden administration on Thursday urged federal agencies to rely on job seekers’ skills — rather than their college degrees — to fill vacancies, according to new guidelines shared exclusively with Axios.

Why is it important: The government is catching up with the private sector’s shift to skills-based hiring in a tight labor market – and in the process opening up jobs to a traditionally overlooked pool of candidates.

Driving the news: The Office of Personnel Management has issued new guidance to agencies to help them implement a competency-based approach to filling jobs.

  • Competency-based hiring focuses on what candidates can do, relying more on competency-based assessments than credentials.
  • It’s also more inclusive because it makes it easier for people without a degree to show that they have the skills to do the job.

By the numbers: According to a March report from LinkedIn, 40% of employers use skills data when hiring through the platform, up 20% from the previous year.

  • Companies that use skills data are 60% more likely to find “a successful hire” than those that don’t, according to the report.

To note : A study published in the Harvard Business Review cited Accenture and IBM as examples of IT companies that had reduced the number of job postings with degree requirements.

  • “The reset taking place in hiring today is vitally important,” said the authors, led by Professor Joseph Fuller of Harvard Business School.
  • “If we want to increase fairness in the labor market, an important way to do that is to remove barriers to well-paying jobs – and there’s no doubt that in recent years one of those barriers has been the inflated degree requirements.”

The plot: The OPM guidance builds on a 2020 executive order from the Trump administration that directed agencies to prioritize skills over college degrees when hiring.

  • Several agencies, including NASA, the Department of the Interior and the US Digital Service, are already using skills-based hiring.
  • The Biden administration has extended the executive order deadline until the end of this year for agencies to adopt certain skills-based hiring practices.

What they say : “Given today’s booming job market, the federal government must position itself to compete with other sectors for top talent,” OPM director Kiran Ahuja said in a statement.


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