Skills-Based Hiring: How Can You Prepare Your Students?

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It’s a challenging job market out there for graduates. While a degree once assured a graduate an easy path to employment, employers are now looking for more when it comes to hiring.

While the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) is making it a must-have skill for companies, it’s not just AI skills that marketing graduates need.

Companies now value professional skills and experience. They want candidates with more than a degree. They want knowledge and experience that can be instantly applied to the role they apply for.

Unfortunately, employers are struggling to find the right talent to fill roles. While unemployment remains low globally, the workforce is also aging leaving many open positions unfilled creating a widening skills gap.

In fact, 75% of employers report it’s difficult to fill roles across industries while IT & data skills are the most challenging to find, regardless of industry and geography, according to Manpower Group.

So how can you as an educator boost the employability of your students and provide employers with work-ready candidates that can carve out a successful marketing career?

The rise of skills-based hiring

Technology is driving a constant need for new skills. This is particularly true for marketing departments as they need to adapt in the face of new technologies such as generative AI, marketing automation, experience and on-page optimization and analytics (GA4 anyone?!)

But technical skills alone are not enough. Employers want new hires to have the technical knowledge but also demonstrate that they can work as part of a team, be analytical and think critically – to name a few key skills.

This new focus by employers has led to a rise in skills-based hiring. So it’s not just about academic achievements – such as a degree – when hiring, it’s also considering hands-on experience, knowledge and potential.

Candidates who are self-taught or gained their skills through experience are becoming major players in the job market. In the U.S. 70 million people are categorized as ‘STARs’ – workers without degrees who are ‘skilled through alternative routes.’

As a BCG article put it, organizations must rethink their approach to recruitment and shift from ‘degree and pedigree’ to ‘will and skill’.

So let’s look at what employers want from graduates from the perspective of recruiters and CMOs.

What do employers want from graduates? A Recruiter’s Perspective

Since 2015, skills for roles have changed by an average of 25%. By 2030 that figure is expected to reach at least 65%, according to LinkedIn. This means an increasing number of professions and skills won’t exist and new skills and roles will emerge.

That’s the reason recruiters are changing the assessment criteria for job roles. In recent years, many big brands (Walmart, Apple, Google and General Motors) have dropped their requirement for a degree to include people with essential knowledge and useful skills.

This has allowed recruiters to deprioritize college degree requirements and turn their attention to hiring candidates with the knowledge and skills they need. It’s also enabling them to improve the quality of hire, expand the talent pool, and reduce bias.

“ 73% of recruiting pros say hiring based on skills is a priority”LinkedIn’s ‘The 2024 Future of Recruiting’ report

So what skills are recruiters looking for from graduates?

An analysis by CashNet USA which looked at over 17 million job listings in the United States on and identified ten soft skills in demand among the highest-paid jobs.
Some companies are also opening up the selection process for graduate programs, focusing on potential and transferable skills rather than academic criteria according to the Talent Acquisition Trends Report 2024.

This includes bootcamps, apprenticeships, and certification programs as alternatives to traditional education. Others provide workplace readiness modules to prepare students for professional environments.

What do employers want from graduates? A CMO’s Perspective

In recent years marketing has taken on a more pivotal role in a business. After all, marketing activities help to boost brand awareness, generate leads and drive revenue. So hiring skilled marketers is a priority and a challenge.

An analysis by Robert Half found that roles such as Marketing Manager, Marketing Director and Marketing Coordinator experienced substantial growth, with job increases of 54%, 42% and 20%. This resulted in over 120,000 jobs in these areas which reflects a growing recognition of the strategic importance of marketing in business success.

When we surveyed CMOs and hiring experts in HR and L&D we asked them “What are the key skills gaps within your company & team?”

Respondents said that AI strategy and development (49%), data analysis (45%), digital social sales (45%), and general digital marketing skills (37%) were the top four gaps found in their organizations.
In addition, an American Marketing Association survey found that 73% of employers report a significant skill gap among recent marketing graduates, particularly in areas such as digital marketing, data analysis, and social media management, which aligns with our survey.

It’s clear that marketing leaders are struggling to find the talent they need to compete in a cut throat online environment.

Many employers believe that higher educational institutions are responsible for developing such required skills reported in the Heliyon journal and that universities should be a source of culture and creativity, fostering the creation of knowledge, traits, and skills essential for student’s personal growth and professional lives.

So what can you as an educator do to prepare your students for the ever-evolving world of work?

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Skills-based education: How to support your graduates

It’s clear that any marketing graduate requires experience in AI, data analysis and general digital marketing but employers are also seeking out skills like collaboration, analytical thinking and problem-solving.

Here are 5 key ways you can ensure your marketing graduates are job-ready:

1) Work integrated learning

Work-integrated learning blends academic learning with practical work experiences to provide your students with opportunities to apply knowledge in real-world settings. This will enhance their skills, knowledge, and employability.
Initiatives to promote work-integrated learning include internships, digital marketing simulations, and entering students into competitions (those involving a corporate sponsor can be very beneficial).

You could also involve students in internal marketing projects so they have experience with CRMs and content creation tools like Canva.

2) Use digital platforms

Students need to use digital platforms like Perplexity or GA4 to know how to use them in a role! The same goes for social platforms such as LinkedIn for building a profile that would showcase skills and attract recruiters.

Encourage students to build their social profiles early, and showcase the work they are completing – they should also look at great profiles from digital marketing leaders to get inspiration.

You should also prompt them to also follow companies they aspire to work for and join LinkedIn or Reddit groups to keep up with trends and developments.

3) Offer a certification

As many graduates lack the skills they need in the marketplace, universities and colleges need to find effective ways to align with industry.

An industry certification as part of a degree program or as an add-on can help include the knowledge and skills employers require. A digital marketing certification benefits future marketers, employers and educators.

That’s why a lot of third-level institutions are looking to offer microcredentials that are stackable and online degrees (or accredited degrees) as a way to fill that skills and knowledge gap.

“Offering an industry certification says we care enough about what we’re doing to make sure we’re partnering with external organizations to bring the industry into our classroom in a unique and specific way,” says Stephen Marshall, CMO of the ETSU Research Corporate, East Tennessee State University. “The magic happens when you have an academic institution and an industry partner coming together to create a unique micro certification partnership.”

4) Build soft skills

LinkedIn’s ‘The 2024 Future of Recruiting’ report believes that Gen Z will account for more than a quarter of the workforce by 2025. This means accessing this new generation of talent will be a priority and a challenge.

That’s where universities and colleges can really make a difference by providing students with key digital marketing skills and building soft skills (like the ones mentioned above). This combination will make the perfect candidate for recruiters and CMOs.

With a good foundation, new hires can be trained and upskilled to become valuable members of any marketing team.

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5) Keep your curriculum relevant and industry aligned

Any university or college must prioritize preparing students for the working world. So it’s necessary to keep your curriculum up-to-date and aligned with the needs of industry.

Relevance ensures that your graduates are equipped with the skills and knowledge demanded by employers which will enhance their employability and career prospects. Alignment with industry standards will also demonstrate your institution’s commitment to producing graduates who are valuable in the workforce.

To do this, you need to keep learning and adapting. This means keeping on top of the latest trends, developments, and research in your field and higher education.

You should also maintain close partnerships and regular communication with industry professionals and incorporate industry feedback into curriculum development.

Boost your curriculum with digital marketing and AI courses

In such a competitive job market, educators need to offer opportunities for students to learn key skills (technical and professional) that boost their employability and enhance career prospects. We partner with universities and colleges to provide industry-recognized credentials – including a new AI course you can add to your curriculum – and professional skills that make your graduates job-ready. Get in touch to find out how you can partner with us today!

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