Skillist has created a skills-based application system that enables job-seekers to apply for positions based on their skills, rather than degree or other proxies. Skillist is widening the talent pool and leveling equitable access to good jobs by focusing on individuals who have no degree but who have acquired a valuable set of diverse experiences through life and work. The Skillist platform helps communicate and signal the right skills shape fit between worker and employer and helps transition people into good-paying, middle skills jobs, especially in the technology sector. These jobs are a particularly good fit for these job-seekers because the skills required are especially transferable from a wide range of experiences.

The platform is designed to facilitate connections between employers and potential employees, helping each find the right fit.. The process begins with collaboration between Skillist and their company partners who together identify open jobs and home in on the specific skills required for open positions. These skills align tightly to what the employer needs and become the focus of the platform’s job descriptions. Candidates then apply for jobs through Skillist’s platform, which guides applicants through a process that helps them identify and articulate relevant accumulated skills. The system matches the job-seekers to open positions, and an anonymized, skills-based application is submitted to the employer’s human resources (HR) office.

This process benefits companies threefold: it provides them with a large untapped pool of qualified candidates to fill open positions; it saves time by finding individuals with a direct skills match; and — by waiting to de-anonymize applications until after candidates have been selected for interviews — it helps reduce bias in the hiring process and generate more employee diversity. Interviewees are then moved seamlessly from the Skillist platform into the company’s existing HR workflow for the rest of the hiring process.

For job-seekers, Skillist’s goal is to enable greater access to opportunity and economic mobility by widening the talent pipeline to include more diverse applicants, reducing bias in the application process, and helping candidates articulate and match their skills to viable opportunities. They are seeing results: Job-seekers who apply through the skills-based hiring platform instead of submitting resumes through traditional hiring platforms have an almost 15 times greater chance of getting an interview.

Ananth Kasturiraman (left) and Caroline Fay at Skillist help facilitate successful fits between employers and employees through skills-based hiring.

We spoke with Ananth Kasturiraman and Caroline Fay of Skillist to discover insights into how they are facilitating the right fit between employers and employees through skills-based hiring.

Q&A with Ananth Kasturiraman and Caroline Fay

Q: Why do you think skills-based hiring is important in today’s labor market?

Caroline: We feel like there has to be a better way for both sides to connect. For example, employers are really gravitating now towards skill-based hiring because they are seeing that a degree or another kind of pedigreed signal isn’t really helping them to fill a job quickly and with the right people. And this is especially true of jobs in the middle skill section of the labor market, that don’t require a person with a bachelor’s degree, like a customer service or sales role. These jobs are often sitting empty for quite a long time and companies are wondering, well, where is the talent? If we are only looking at a certain segment of the working population because we’re over indexing on where a person’s college degree is from or other false signals, we’re really limiting ourselves to who is going to be put in that job. And we’re excluding folks who can do the job quite well. They just may not have signals that really shine through in the current resume paradigm.

Ananth: Yeah, there are a lot of talented people out there that companies are currently missing out on. The other thing we’re seeing is recognition on the supply side that the four-year degree is not a viable pathway for everyone. So Skillist is for anyone who has the skills for an entry-level professional job, but in particular we’re focused on individuals who don’t have a degree — maybe you’re a veteran or you’re returning to the workforce after some time off raising family. We feel like, while the platform is for everybody, those folks in particular get to translate and transfer their skills more clearly by applying through the Skillist platform.

For example, one of the first job applicants, a manager at Dunkin’ Donuts, was hired by one of our employer partners. She was able to demonstrate and articulate all the skills she attained through her customer support role and transfer them to a more professional role, clearly conveying why she would be an exceptional fit for that role. This exemplifies the types of folks that we’re trying to reach and give access to these opportunities. We’re not only making hiring more inclusive and accessible to more diverse individuals, we are designing a new way of helping anyone with the right skills to get a fair shot at connecting with an employer to share their story and talents.

Q: How is Skillist transforming the hiring process?

Ananth: Once we establish a partnership with an employer client, onboarding is a collaborative process of identifying the five or six skills that we think are most important for their open roles. From there we build a skill-based job application for their position. We want to make sure that we — and they — really understand what it is they’re looking for. And once we’ve reached alignment on what those five skills are, we identify the other core elements that go into building the job description, like pay and location, and then we set up that application on our platform.

Caroline: Yes, and then for job-seekers, Skillist is a different way to apply for a job. Most users will search and find Skillist the same way they would find any other job or job portal online. But, instead of going to the employer site to apply directly, you’re taken to the Skillist platform where instead of dropping in your resume, you’re asked to share examples of how you have demonstrated the skills that that company has deemed critical to success in the role.

And so, it ends up mirroring the S.T.A.R. method, which guides you to share a Situation, a Task, an Action, and the Results. And that’s the process we guide our users through in articulating their skill-sets. For example, when asked to talk about problem-solving ability, a job-seeker may bring up a time when they were faced with something really challenging at the front counter in Dunkin’ Donuts and how they resolved the issue, in addition to the great results that came from the way they handled it. So, users submit their specific examples along with additional information, and if the user is selected by the employer, only at that point is their identity revealed and they are ported over into the employer’s traditional hiring process.

Q: How does Skillist benefit job-seekers better than other job application platforms?

Caroline: Ultimately the goal, before Skillist was launched commercially, was to make an application process that job-seekers would love. Applying to jobs is not fun, so how can we make it something that allows you to tell your story and doesn’t frustrate you at every point along the road? For example, as folks prepare their skills examples, we provide guidance within the platform that helps them put their best foot forward, reminding them that it doesn’t just have to be a professional example or an educational example, it can be from life, from volunteer work or extracurricular work, or perhaps time in the armed forces. We try, throughout the platform, to encourage users to draw from all the experiences that they’ve had.

We have built our platform to clearly communicate the skills needs of employers, but it is designed specifically around the user needs of the job-seeker, from the moment that they get on the platform to the moment that they hear back about their submission. Even if a person doesn’t get the job, we make sure that they hear back that news in a timely manner, instead of leaving them hanging, as is typical of traditional hiring practices today. We provide opportunities for them to talk to a career coach about what they can do better, other jobs they can apply for, et cetera. So, we’re thinking about that whole process and continually working to improve it. There are so many things we can continue to do to support job-seekers and make the process more bearable and hopefully even something that feels educational, that feels enlightening about what job-seekers can do and that feels like it’s a job application process that’s actually on their side and working for them.

Ananth: Yes, it’s really exciting to see when you’re able to boil down a role to the skills that a company is really looking for and then invite everyone to apply with the understanding that it doesn’t necessarily matter where they went to school or what their last three jobs have been. If they feel like they have the skills, they should apply and have an equal shot at the job. It’s really opened up the talent funnel and allowed a lot of diverse individuals to apply. People across all these different cross sections are getting opportunities to interview and meet with companies to share their story and to ultimately get offers and great jobs.

Q: Skills-based hiring goes against the current norm. How do you convince employers and job-seekers this approach is valid?

Caroline: On the job-seeker side, we try to be really clear about the purpose, that this process is created to make opportunities accessible and to make the assessment process more fair. So, we are very upfront that it may take a little bit more time, but that compared to resume-based application sites, job-seekers who apply through skills tend to have about a 15 -times greater chance of receiving an interview. We share that information because it helps users understand that when they put in the time to share skills examples, they will have a higher chance of actually getting that interview. All in all, we work to make sure that the platform feels intentionally designed and built for the people who are using it.

Ananth: Employers get really excited about this because there’s talent outside of where companies are traditionally looking, it’s just that they haven’t had the bandwidth or the capacity to think about how to engage with a broader pool. We recognize that talent teams and recruiters are trying to do the best they can, but the actual information their tools are giving them about every applicant is not putting them in a position to make the best decisions.Skillist can help them understand what they need to know about every single person who’s applying and give them the best information to figure out who to talk to. This helps them engage with a broader community of job-seekers, and make decisions more effectively and quickly, and with more confidence that they know more about a person before deciding whether or not to spend time and resources interviewing.

Q: How does Skillist and skills-based hiring impact in the labor market? 

Caroline: We talk a lot about access to opportunity, but what that means to us is economic mobility. So, as Skillist scales we want to see more people moving from hourly wage jobs or lower income work into the family-supporting, career-advancing jobs that they can and  want to do. That’s really what gets me out of bed every morning: How we can get more folks access to good jobs that are going to change their lives and get them on that springboard into the middle class and beyond.

Ananth: Skillist can create a common language and currency for the labor market and move us into a world where people can get jobs based on what they can or want to do. And companies are perceiving talent again based on filling roles by understanding what they need a person to be good at, as opposed to hiring more people who went to a certain school and likely not getting the right fit. We feel that building this infrastructure, this data layer, will be transformative in the way people work, learn, get hired and promoted.