The Emerging Trend Toward Skills-Based Hiring

Degrees may not be as highly demanded as they used to be.

Here's an interesting phenomenon that bodes well for current and aspiring IT professionals. A recent story in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) observes that, with hiring getting increasingly competitive, the phenomenon known as "degree inflation" is declining.


What that means is that the tendency to require degrees for certain positions is falling off as qualified hiring candidates become harder to find. At the same time, the value of skills-based training, hands-on skills, and tech-specific knowledge is increasing — and adds to a person's suitability for a great many jobs.


The HBR story ran earlier today under the headline "Skills-Based Hiring is on the Rise," and it's definitely worth a read.


Where and How Does This Touch on IT Certification?


Good question! Consider this quote from the story "If demand for talent far outreaches supply, employers de-emphasize degrees." And this as well: "In evaluating job applicants, employers are suspending the use of degree completion as a proxy and instead now favor hiring on the basis of demonstrated skills and competencies" (emphasis mine).


It's no big stretch to recognize that IT certifications aim to provide a credible demonstration of skills and competencies, or to imagine employers making that connection themselves. Thus, I think the IT job market is trembling on the edge of another "certification boom," the likes of which we haven't seen since the mid-1990s through the early 2000s.


Back then, the MSCE and the MCSA credentials offered by Microsoft dominated the certification landscape. Those particular certs are now completely pass�, of course, but I would definitely be on the lookout for a new set of leviathans to make the ground tremble across the tech hiring landscape of the 2020s.


It doesn't take a genius to see that information security, cloud technology and virtualization, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and data science are where the current action is — and will be for some time to come.


Is the Degree vs. Certification Debate Finally Over?


Degrees may not be as highly demanded as they used to be.

No, not really. It's still a good idea for anyone and everyone to get a college degree if they can. But it means that two-year degrees from community colleges, which typically focus on "workforce preparation" curricula, are going to become increasingly valuable and in ever-higher demand.


I'm still disappointed that President Biden wasn't able to get universal community college into his signature Build Back Better legislation. His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, is a lifetime educator who has instilled a deep appreciation and respect for community colleges into his outlook on what it takes to build a capable and competent 21st-century workforce.


In fact, I'd argue that some kind of two-year program in one of the aforementioned areas of IT is just the ticket for career changers to not just stay in the workforce, but increase their traction therein. Ditto for younger people aiming to enter the workforce in a way that improves their lifetime earnings and professional engagement opportunities.


Then, too, community college is designed to be affordable, achievable, and often comes with a pipeline into meaningful job placements with local employers. This really does fit the oft-stated goal in community college mission statements of providing an ongoing stream of capable and job-ready workers for the local workforce.


It's a real win-win, because it gives more opportunities to everyone — including minorities, the financially disadvantaged or distressed, and those with special needs — to join the workforce and enjoy the benefits of interesting work and a living wage.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.