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U.S. secretary of commerce to CEOs: Stop checkbox hiring

June 8, 2021, 6:39 PM UTC

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo has a simple solution for executives who are frustrated they cannot find enough talent: Change the way you hire workers.

Raimondo said Tuesday during Fortune’s Global Forum conference that when she meets with CEOs to understand their concerns, they list job training and a greater need for skilled workers as some of the most pressing issues they currently face.

What she’s discovered, however, is that most corporate hiring departments are “still looking for people that check the boxes,” referring to HR departments that automatically filter out candidates who lack college degrees or a certain number of years of experience.

The problem is that for many jobs, it’s not necessary for candidates to have these specific requirements in order for them to do the work well. Executives may be inadvertently overlooking high-quality job candidates by sticking to these traditional hiring norms, Raimondo explained. 

Additionally, Raimondo recommended that companies seriously consider switching away from hiring softwares that screen résumés based on certain keywords. Hiring managers are likely to miss out on a large swath of qualified workers if they stick to the same hiring playbook, codified into software.

“They’ve been doing it the same way for a long time,” Raimondo said. “You have to do it differently. You have to be open to someone who has the competencies, but maybe not a full four-year degree.”

She cited an unspecified CEO from an Austrian company who has introduced a “great apprenticeship model” that has presumably helped management find skilled workers.

“Certain companies are doing this. Community colleges are doing this. We just have to scale it, as you say, and I believe that we will,” Raimondo said of these kinds of apprenticeship and training programs. “This isn’t rocket science, it really isn’t.”