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3 Benefits of Alternative Credentials

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Hiring candidates with alternative credentials can help your organization accomplish the following:

Increase the talent pool. “It can absolutely increase the qualified candidate pool, but by how much depends on the industry and role,” says Joe Cahill, chief customer officer at the Project Management Institute, an association for project professionals based in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. 

“By branching out and looking for candidates with certifications, whether or not they hold a college degree, organizations can fill these important roles while ensuring these new hires have the right qualifications,” he explains.

Increase candidate diversity. “Skill-based hiring reduces barriers to entry that disproportionately affect minority workers,” says Kate Markin Coleman, co-author of Growing Fairly: How to Build Opportunity and Equity in Workforce Development

Research suggests that employers rely more heavily than is necessary on college degrees as a proxy for job preparedness.

“College degree requirements disproportionately disadvantage people of color,” Coleman says. “Yet many individuals without degrees possess the fundamentals that qualify them for jobs requiring advanced skills.” 

Brynt Parmeter, senior director of talent acquisition for retail giant Walmart, agrees.

“If you’re not doing a skill-based approach, you’re missing a whole range of talent,” he says. “We have significantly increased the quality and quantity of our candidates when we lean into this. We achieve much higher diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes when we use skill-based pathways.”

Macy’s Technology, which is headquartered in Duluth, Georgia, has leveraged partnerships with organizations such as Google Career Certificates Consortium, Women in Technology’s Single Mothers Program, Pyramid Academy, Workforce Optimization Services, and Techbridge, says Nora Marcy, vice president, HR business partner, at the company. 

“We’re also able to help our communities and give well-deserved opportunities to qualified, skilled individuals who have been passed over by other organizations,” she notes. “Hiring for roles is just as much about hiring for aptitude and attitude as it is for skill. If we can bring someone onto the team who shows they have personal drive and desire to succeed, we can teach them the skills they may be lacking.” 


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Increase the number of candidates with job-specific skills. A new employee with a four-year college degree in computer science might have to be trained in an employer’s software programs. However, a new hire who comes on board with an industry-recognized certificate in the software the company uses already knows how to navigate the program and requires less on-the-job training.

“Industry-recognized certifications prove the candidate has mastered a skill set that is highly specific to their role,” Cahill says. “And because many of these certifications require putting hours into ongoing education, they also suggest the candidate is up-to-date on the latest industry practices.”

Kathryn Tyler is a freelance writer and former HR generalist and trainer in Wixom, Michigan.

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