Blog Post

In the Resume of the Future, Skills (Not Degrees) Will Be Paramount

Rebecca Leung

Guest Contributor

The Skills Economy is changing the way organizations identify and evaluate job candidates. One thing is clear: The traditional resume is no longer adequate. In our five-part mini-series, we explore how the resume of the future will help companies win the war for talent. Check out part one and two here.

Say goodbye to the typical "education" section on the resume. According to a recent study from Deloitte Research, recent college graduates today enjoy a salary premium as a result of their degree—but that might change in the near future.

"In a tightening labor market," the researchers wrote, "smart employers should carefully catalog the skills required for the occupations they hire and screen for those skills rather than accepting a bachelor's degree as a proxy for them."

What's more, the rapid pace of technological change is forcing employees to evolve their skills beyond their degrees. A B.A. in computer science doesn't necessarily prove a candidate is up-to-date on the latest programming languages. And in some cases, candidates need to acquire skills for entirely new roles and titles, from machine learning engineer to UX writer to brand activation manager.

To prove they have the right skills for any given role in the future, workers will need a new kind of resume, one that includes more specific demonstrations of their abilities. The resume of the future might include a list of their specific coursework over holistic degrees, short-term project work instead of company tenure and peer ratings to substantiate soft skills.

Evolving the Resume to Reflect Continuous Learning

Employee credentials have to keep pace with the rapid changes taking place in the workforce—and according to research from PwC, post-college courses have the potential to close that gap.

"What any hiring manager is looking for is: Can you do the job?" says Kapeesh Saraf, director of product management at the online education startup Coursera. "Usually, in the past, the best signal was your work experience and degree. The skills that people need on the job are changing rapidly, so people need alternative ways to demonstrate those skills."

Saraf envisions employers and human resources managers in the future will have access to information about the classes their employees have taken and how they've performed across a variety of skills. For instance, the HR manager could see which programmers performed particularly well in Drupal, and make decisions on what projects to assign that person based on this granular data.

Already, the number of individuals engaging in coursework outside of major degree programs is on the rise. In 2017, Saraf said the number of paid learners using MOOCs (massive online open courses) grew 70 percent on Coursera, and Udacity reported 50,000 paid students in its Nanodegree programs. And companies are beginning to take these programs seriously: One survey found the most reliable predictor of success on a technical score in an interview was whether a candidate had completed a Udacity or Coursera course.

Incorporating A Soft Skills Section

In addition to more up-to-date, more granular representations of hard skills, companies need ways to identify a candidate's soft skills. Rather than rely on tenure at one company as an indicator, peer reviews might act as more detailed indicators of the candidate's strengths and weaknesses.

Saraf says consulting companies such as Accenture and Mphasis are already using peer review data for internal hiring. Colleagues rate their coworkers in terms of specific criterion, such as who's a team player and who shows leadership skills. In turn, HR gathers workers into temporary teams for one-off projects.

"They feed that into their systems to determine not just who's easy to work with or not, but what are the right teams to form," Saraf says.

Saraf imagines the rating system of the future could look something like that of Airbnb's for hosts. A number of areas on Airbnb—cleanliness, responsiveness, etc.—are given number ratings instead of just one overarching number for the host's quality. This granular data gives visitors a much clearer picture of what they're getting before booking a night's stay. The same could be said of hiring a candidate.

"Skills that will be important to consider are those like leadership, organization and dependability," adds Elvis Ha, Manager of product management at Cornerstone. "This will be a drastic change from the generally positive peer reviews we see on places like LinkedIn that only tell one side of the candidate's story."

The Road Ahead for New Credentials

The growth of project-based and gig work will likely increase the relevance of this skills-based approach to the resume in the future. In the meantime, there are still a host of questions to be answered about how candidate's skills will be accurately represented on the resume of the future through coursework, peer reviews and project work. Tech human capital consultant Babette Ten Haken, for example, expressed concern that peer review ratings might oversimplify a worker's skills.

"I'm not a great believer in standalone numbers," Ten Haken said. "They have no understanding of the complexity of the organization: Was the project complex or simple, or a horrible team?"

Saraf acknowledges that it might also become more difficult for people to get a fresh start if peer ratings follow us around throughout our careers. But he's hopeful that the opposite is true regarding the rise of relevant coursework. In his view, online coursework can allow people from diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic circumstances to seize jobs that weren't available to them before. In its 2017 Learner Outcomes Survey, Coursera found that 38 percent of candidates who took courses to advance their careers felt they were in a better position to apply for jobs. Eighteen percent said the online coursework helped them kickstart a new career.

"It creates opportunities for anyone willing to work hard," Saraf says. "In the future, as things get more quantifiable, it means even if someone didn't go to a top school they will have access to the same opportunity whether they went to community college or Stanford—and that's really exciting."

Take a closer look at the resume of the future, here.

Photo: Creative Commons

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