top of page

Transferable skills: the new job market must-have

Updated: Jan 16

Technical skills have historically been the only skills that made their way onto an interviewer's checklist. They have long been valued more than transferable skills or soft skills in the workplace. But the status quo has changed significantly over the last few years.

Foundational transferable skills have become even more important given the rise of remote and autonomous work. Once upon a time, leadership was all about driving performance. Your ability to know how to do your job well, to do it well and occasionally ensure others were doing it well was at the heart of what it took to move up in an organisation.

Flash forward to a world being forced to embrace digital accessibility and infrastructure and the increasing trend of reducing degree-level requirements to enter the "professional" job market, are being adopted at scale. This structural change is the result of the demand for talent exceeding the supply, a trend that has been further accelerated by the pandemic. And this trend brings new hiring priorities.

More and more organisations are hiring based on skills and not degrees – and with excellent results. This is also why we believe that the history of the CV is coming to an end as applicants need to show, rather than tell, what they’re capable of.

What are transferable skills?

Transferable skills generally refer to categories like leadership, communication and problem-solving. On the other hand, hard skills are technical capabilities that can be quantified and measured. Typically, workers can acquire technical knowledge through formal coursework, on-the-job training and real-world experiences.

Why are transferable skills so important?

Although technical skills can be directly related to a position, transferable skills are incredibly valuable to employers. Not only do they show that you’d be a good fit for the team, they can also demonstrate what a candidate can bring to a role, as well as a team.

Based on recent LinkedIn data, Technical skills will help you get a recruiter's attention, but transferable skills will help you land the job. In fact, 45% of all LinkedIn Premium jobs posted within the past three months mention the importance of communication skills. And more than 61% of professionals say transferable skills in the workplace are just as important as technical skills.

Time for a structural reset

What does this mean for the removal of barriers to the job market, that were insurmountable for those without degrees or sector-specific experience? Due to the colossal shift in supply vs demand of talent, focusing on hiring people with the right attitude and aptitude for a role then upskilling them is an approach that has been adopted significantly by industries.

As reported in a McKinsey survey, the proportion of companies addressing empathy and interpersonal skills doubled in 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, skills like leadership and relationship management became a much bigger priority for most companies, jumping ten percentage points year over year, from 40% to 50%.

For the first time, we've also seen in a move to all ten of the most in demand being skills being sought after by employers being transferable skills, with the first technical skill placing in 12th.

Is this the end of the degree?

To understand what sorts of change are happening as companies abolish degree requirements, we need look no further than companies who have recently announced the removal of degree requirements.

Despite pledges to remove degree-requirements, research from Harvard Business School found Oracle, for example, requires degrees in well over 90% of postings, including all of its network administrators. The national average is only 52%. The same study found that only 26% of Accenture’s postings contained a degree requirement. Likewise, only 29% of IBM’s did. But the percentages were dramatically different at Intel (94%), HP (92%), and Apple (90%).

It has been widely believed and upheld that college graduates possess more-refined technical and adaptive skills, along with the ability to work in groups, say, or to communicate efficiently in real-time, or to prioritise tasks. But in an extensive insight study conducted by Clu last year, in over 800 interviews with hiring managers, almost 100% (96%) couldn't articulate the technical and transferable skills they were hiring for.

This may well be because transferable skills are far harder to assess, but defaulting to the use of college degrees as a proxy for them is not only significantly hindering the potential of a talent pool, it is also fundamentally incorrect in it's assumptions.

Scaling your talent pool

Across the Employer's using Clu to date, we've seen a significant uptick in the ability to articulate requirements against any given role over a six month period. We've also seen that after reducing their reliance on degree-based hiring, Employers seem to be thinking more carefully about what capabilities they are truly looking for, and begin adding more transferable skills than technical skills to roles over the same six month period of utilsing skills-based hiring.

This is in turn increasing the diversity and volume of relevant job applicants and significantly increasing the outcomes of those that would have been previously exited from a hiring process at the point of application, due to a lack of technical skills.

The reset that’s taking place in hiring today is vitally important. If we want to increase equity in the job market and improve the financial independence of those from society's most marginalised communities, we must start removing barriers to well-paying jobs — and there’s no question that in recent years one of those barriers have been underpinned by inflated degree requirements.

All companies have different needs, of course, but as they write job descriptions and assess job seekers they should carefully assess the value of the arbitrary blockers to talent that they’ve been using, and the assumptions they’ve been making about who is talented.


For more information on how Clu uses machine learning to shatter barriers to the job market for systemically underutilised talent, get in touch with our team today.

bottom of page