Skip to content

Four Ways to Use Credential Technology for Skills-Based Hiring

June 28, 2023

At a Glance

Learner-centered digital tools and technologies can boost adoption and give employers needed information.

Meena Naik Director
Practices & Centers

In today’s tough labor market, many candidates are applying for jobs that are outside their areas of expertise or not closely aligned to their education and training. But how can employers adequately identify talent if candidates do not match employer education requirements or pursue jobs aligned with their degrees? The hiring process is exhausting for all parties—even more so in a competitive talent landscape. We can make sourcing good talent easier if we embrace a nimbler hiring model driven by skills rather than degrees.

Technological innovation is accelerating skills-based practices, including the development and use of tools for digital credentials, digital wallets to store these credentials, and the ability to move information (including during hiring processes) while maintaining the integrity of the data. There has been significant innovation in this space, bringing with it the promise of supporting skills-based outcomes. However, we continue to see slow adoption for reasons including employers needing evidence that earned credentials can be used to match skills to jobs, gaps between what credentials convey about learning in relation to the information employers need, and the need for significant adoption among workers before these credentials can be used in hiring.

To that end, Jobs for the Future (JFF) has identified four ways to use digital credential technology to support skills-based hiring. We believe it will make adoption easier—that is, we will see more people awarding credentials, more people storing these records in their wallets, and more employers looking for credentials during hiring processes.

  1. Select a vendor that aligns with broadly accepted open standards, like the verifiable credential standard, once you decide how to award digital records or credentials. Applicant tracking systems—the portals human resources teams use to post jobs and identify talent—only accept certain types of files to transmit records and credentials digitally. Vendors that currently abide by the verifiable credential standard will help ensure a seamless transition as the rest of technology catches up and converges around a single technical standard in the process.
  2. Select a tool that allows a learner to own their shared record data. Maintaining direct learner ownership over their records helps ensure the individual is not affected should a credential-issuing organization halt operations in the future.
  3. Ensure that the chosen technology allows individuals to move their records around and decide how to display their data. Some tools require subscription or payment fees to maintain access to records, and others require learners to store their achievements on their platform. In both cases, the individual cannot easily move, store, or combine their records with those in other systems. This also means the learner may not be able to easily send their credential to someone in the future or display achievements on profiles without additional permissions or fees.
  4. Consider tools that allow learners to build and receive validation for their own achievements over time. As they collect achievements and records based on work or learning, learners should have the option to display their achievements in a record they own and can share with others. They might also want to explore alternative achievements to continue their education. Remember, the ultimate goal of this initiative is to allow learners to present their credentials in a digital format they can one day transmit through hiring systems. A tool with this capability will drive adoption, promote agency, and set a precedent for all records to move this way.

We are testing these principles in real time through a Walmart-funded project, in partnership with Solutions for Information Design, LLC (SOLID) and the Manufacturing Institute, focused on how to accelerate and enable skills-driven approaches that help transition U.S. military personnel successfully transition into civilian employment in the modern manufacturing industry. In this population-specific example, we expect to not only validate these principles in practice but also test technology that will finally ease the fragmented process of switching from one path to another, in this case transitioning from military to civilian employment.

As part of our servicemember transition project, we’ll select a tool to issue these newly designed digital credentials aligned to industry-accepted standards developed by the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council. We are also considering how to guide veterans through adopting a digital wallet to store these records, so this program can grow at scale.

To advance skills-based hiring ideology across all industries, we must first find the right tool. As we move beyond these selection principles, we’ll consider how education providers, community-based organizations, veterans, and employers can help accelerate adoption and truly embrace a person-centered and skills-driven model for training, hiring, and career advancement. Stay tuned for our next update.