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Jobseekers Want Digital Credentials for Skill-Sharing. Are Employers Ready?

April 15, 2024

At A Glance

JFF’s survey data shows jobseekers are ready to showcase their skills with digital wallets, but more employers need to embrace the technology. 

Joan Lee Manager
Sharon Leu Senior Director
Practices & Centers

A transition to a skills-based hiring ecosystem will be far more effective if digital credentials become an accessible way for jobseekers to share their skills during their job search. Employers have reported that skills-based practices make it twice as easy to find qualified candidates, and much of the foundational work has received endorsement from leaders in workforce and policy, including state governors and major corporate employers. A new survey commissioned by Jobs for the Future is the first of its kind to engage a key population: jobseekers themselves. JFF asked these critical stakeholders about what they know about digital credentials and how they might use them to communicate their skills. The findings reveal that most learners and workers are eager to use digital credentials in their job search, but employers aren’t widely accepting them.  

When based on open standards designed for interoperability, digital credentials and wallets give the jobseeker control of the information they wish to share with others, playing a crucial role in a skills-based ecosystem by giving them an additional vehicle to communicate their skills.  At JFF we’ve contributed to the development of the technical infrastructure that makes skills-based hiring possible by hosting a series of interoperability plugfests, allowing vendors to demonstrate how verifiable credentials can move from one wallet to another. Verifiable credentials also help connect data systems, improve the data tools used to communicate skills, and address trust issues through the open standards they employ, contributing to the development of a skills-based hiring ecosystem.  


Data like this that is directly from jobseekers helps to shed light on where all stakeholders need to invest their time and efforts to shift focus and make a skills-based hiring work for the jobseekers it could impact the most.

Cat Ward, Vice President, Employer Mobilization, JFF

Opportunities and gaps 

As these emerging technologies begin to integrate into hiring processes, Morning Consult conducted a survey on behalf of JFF during February 2024 that sampled 2,049 people to examine the extent to which jobseekers are familiar with or use digital credentials and wallets during their job search. 

The survey found that about 24% of jobseekers have already used a digital credential at least once for a job application process. Of those, almost 9 in 10 users say that including them in their applications has been helpful to their job search.  

However, the survey also revealed additional findings that warrant consideration while transitioning to skills-based hiring.  

  • There’s a gap between jobseekers who want to use digital credentials and employers who ask for them. After learning about digital credentials, 65% of jobseekers say they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to use them on their next job application. But only 19% have ever been asked by an employer for a digital credential during the job application process.  
  • Jobseekers want to use digital wallets to share their credentials. Three out of 4 jobseekers stated that a digital wallet would be “very” or “somewhat” helpful with their job search. Nearly half of jobseekers thought that the most beneficial reason for using a digital wallet was the ability to store all credentials in one place, and 58% would use a digital wallet to share credentials, even if not required by an employer. When asked to rank the top credentials that would be most useful in a digital wallet, jobseekers selected work experience and work history as the top two choices. 
  • More work needs to begin to engage users without postsecondary degrees. Of the 15% of respondents who indicated that they were not familiar with and not interested in learning more about digital credentials, 80% had not obtained a postsecondary degree, and 2 out of 3 had an income of less than $50,000 per year. 

Action steps for key stakeholders

While these survey findings provide a snapshot of how jobseekers use digital credentials and wallets within today’s hiring processes, the data also suggests how certain stakeholders can shift their practices to better accommodate them using digital credentials.   

For employers: Employers engage in skills-based talent practices hoping to match employee capabilities to business needs, and our survey data found that jobseekers using digital credentials were more likely to say it was “easy” to communicate their skills. Employers transitioning to skills-based hiring practices should review business processes and technology capabilities to understand how to request and review digital credentials during their hiring processes. These include identifying and mapping skills needed to fill job roles, working with hiring managers to craft job descriptions that request specific skills and associated trusted credentials to match job needs, and working with vendors and IT specialists to adapt applicant tracking systems and HR systems to accept verifiable skills data from digital credentials. 

For solution providers: Jobseekers in the survey said the best part of using a digital wallet was the ability to store all their different credentials in one place. Developers of platforms that issue or store digital credentials should ensure their product supports the W3C verifiable credential standards to ensure that digital credentials are not confined to a particular institution, provider, or product ecosystem, but can give learners and jobseekers the flexibility to store and access their credentials in multiple environments. This would allow a user to move a course-level credential to another institution, reducing the administrative burden and credit loss for students transferring institutions or those resuming their degree again after an extended absence. Credentials should be created with metadata capable of transmitting individuals’ work history and work experience, whether employer-issued or self-attested.    

For the workforce development community: One of the promising benefits of skills-based hiring revolves around providing opportunity for populations who are typically shut out from quality jobs, including people whose highest education level is less than a four-year degree. Our survey data shows that 80% of those who indicated that they did not know about digital credentials and were not interested in learning more did not have a postsecondary degree. As skills-based hiring aims to decrease using a four-year degree as a proxy for skills, we should work to increase the opportunity for those jobseekers to communicate their skills and experiences using digital credentials. Closing this gap will require better communication on how digital credentials work in a skills-based economy, how they are beneficial to those without degrees, and how to use a digital wallet to send and receive credentials.   

“We are currently at a juncture where skills-based hiring is turning from a moment into a movement,” says Cat Ward, Vice President of Employer Mobilization at JFF. “Data like this that is directly from the jobseekers helps to shed light on where all stakeholders, from employers to app developers, need to invest their time and efforts to shift focus and make a skills-based hiring work for the jobseekers it could impact the most.”     

At JFF, we’re beginning to work with project partners to scope and build credentials for their own programming. The data from this survey reminds us to reflect on our own practices as a partner organization and as an employer. By using open-source credentialing tools developed by the MIT Digital Credentials Consortium, we’re building internal capacity to issue and verify digital credentials. This way, we can follow the principles we recommend to others and give the JFF community the ability to communicate experiences gained on the job via digital credentials and fully participate in this movement.

Incubated within JFFLabs, the Verifiable Credentials Project focuses on ensuring that the technical infrastructure of credentials, and the applications that use them, are built on open standards. For more information about the work of the Verifiable Credentials Project please visit: Sign up here to get access to a more detailed report of this data and recommended calls to action to be available later this year.  


JFF would like to acknowledge Walmart for their continued support of this initiative. 

Learn more about digital wallets

Skills-based practices make pathways to good careers more accessible to a wider segment of the workforce by focusing on what workers can do, not on the degrees or certifications they’ve earned. The verifiable credentials wallets highlighted in this market scan give learners and workers the tools they need to communicate the totality of their skills and abilities and translate their achievements into future opportunities.
Jobs for the Future (JFF) is a national nonprofit that drives transformation of the U.S. education and workforce systems to achieve equitable economic advancement for all.