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There's been a lot of talk about the importance of soft skills, but most traditional hiring practices leave evaluation of these skills to the final step of the process. What if we used soft skills as the initial screen for candidates? Will that open opportunity for a broader, more diverse population of candidates? Will employers find more candidates with the personal characteristics that not only make them a good hire today, but also a good employee over the long-term? Those are the questions we are trying to answer with theThings.biz, a free professional assessment service and online job market for people who lack "direct experience" or a strong professional network, but who have the personal characteristics that lead to success.

Photo of Geordie McClelland
21 19

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theThings.biz is a career advancement service that goes beyond the resume.  We help young people who have neither direct prior work experience nor strong personal connections (recession grads, Veterans, and those with non-traditional backgrounds) start fulfilling careers. We provide searchable, reference-based professional profiles built around what a candidate can do as opposed to what they’ve already done.  To achieve this, we highlight transferable skills and leadership qualities – two essential attributes the traditional resume usually ignores – and provide a job search engine that matches job-seekers with companies looking for talented, entry-level hires.

Though companies recognize the value of soft skills as being critical in their new hires (a Bentley University study found that they were deemed more important than hard, technical skills need for a job), they aren’t using them in their primary evaluation of candidates (the same Bentley study found only a minority of employers who do so).  We think this gap is caused by a lack of reliable means to reliably measure these characteristics in an initial screen.  We’re addressing this challenge by requiring candidates use references to identify and rank the soft-skills they proved most in education, job and volunteering experiences.  We limit choice and force rankings to provide a reference-verified view of people’s accomplishments that is standardized and comparable across a diverse set of experiences.
 
With reliable, standardized measures of transferable skills, we are helping to bridge the language gap that can make the difference between “non-relevant experience” that employers ignore and “the diversity of perspectives” that companies need.  And by measuring early achievement by how a person works and thinks as opposed to explicitly what he or she did, we’ve created an alternative to the entry-level resume that highlights meaningful results that can realistically be achieved prior to the start of one’s career.
 

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

We help recession grads, Veterans, and people with non-traditional backgrounds (including opportunity youth) start fulfilling careers. And we help companies who are looking for a better way to find entry-level talent with the personal characteristics that suggest that they will be a good, long-term hire. Our funding comes from companies who post jobs on our site - in addition to posting the job, we also provide candidate matching services, applicant tracking services that help make the process transparent for job candidates, and the ability to evaluate and compare the soft skills of all candidates for a job (even those who didn't apply on our platform) on theThings.biz

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

With a self-evaluation process focused entirely on achievement through proving transferable soft skills, we raise the importance and value of these characteristics in the minds of young people. Too often good, valuable work is ignored because traditional hiring practices screen only for "relevant experience" - our process is based on the idea that all work can be good, relevant work if people are mindful about developing and proving these soft skills. We believe that when young people know these things about themselves and are able to communicate where and how they've proven them, they'll better represent themselves through the job search process and ultimately be better employees. For companies, we are providing a rigorous, standardized evaluation of young people's soft skills. In doing so, we hope to bridge the gap between what companies say is important in young talent (soft skills) and how are they currently hiring (hard skills and in-network referrals).

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We are up and running now at www.theThings.biz. We are looking to collaborate with organizations whose focus is helping young people be more career-ready by developing their soft skills (either directly or in-directly) to test the effectiveness of our platform in preparing young people for a job search and career. We are looking for companies who are not satisfied with the quality and diversity of the candidates they find through traditional recruiting methods to try our system.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

We'd love to collaborate with organizations who are working with our target candidate audience on a daily basis - to see where we can help and also to continue to get feedback on usability, additional content and functionality that would be valuable, and potential partnership models that can help us help more people. Longer-term, for those who test theThings.biz, we'd love to know: Among job seekers, the impact on: - Self-awareness - Confidence in their job search - Understanding of the characteristics that companies value - Job search outcomes Among companies, the impact on: - Quality of candidates identified - Diversity of candidates identified - Candidates hired And ultimately - over the long-term we'd like to find partners who can help us track the long-term achievements of those candidates hired through our system.

The idea emerged from:

  • An individual

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • Keen to prototype it, find partners and pursue implementation

21 comments

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Spam
Photo of priyanka botny
Team

Hi Geordie,
Great thoughts! Is there a difference between education and gaining work skills?

Spam
Photo of Geordie McClelland
Team

Hi Priyanka, our system has been set up to give equal value to educational experience, job experience, and volunteering experience in building a soft-skills based profile. Each is an opportunity to show how a person works and thinks as observed by the people they worked with - and in thinking about these as transferable skills, we really want to present a view of how a person can work in any environment (in school or in a job and across any industry). At least that's what we've got now - would be interested in the community's thoughts on the approach.

Spam
Photo of priyanka botny
Team

Let's take an example : Person X is well educated and lacks skills like programming, communication etc.. He/She has a degree in Engineering (B.S) but fails to get a job due to interview failures and approach. How is that self-evaluation actually done? X feels that he has worked hard and gets demotivated.

Spam
Photo of Geordie McClelland
Team

Hi Priyanka, in this scenario for each educational experience that Person X has had, he or she would identify one reference who would identify the top two soft skills that Person X proved, the reference would rank them and then write a brief description as to how Person proved it. After getting that feedback, Person X would rate him or herself against those same criteria. Even if Person X didn't get the job you reference, our system encourages him or her to find other opportunities for work (any work including "non-relevant jobs" and volunteering) as a way to further demonstrate and hone his or her soft skills (while also contributing to the economy and community). As Person X gets more experiences, his or her profile highlights the characteristics that are identified most often and thus truly define how he or she works. With this summary of the person (as a person, not just a set of skills) we are trying to replicate the value of a referral - without relying on a professional network.

So in the end, maybe Person X isn't the greatest communicator, but is really defined by his or her initiative, ability to work across cultures, and ability to work effectively in a team - those characteristics along with the degree in Engineering may be what the next company is looking for. That's the type of match we can help facilitate.

Spam
Photo of Alisha Snyder
Team

Hi Geordie, I just signed up for theThings.biz! This seems to be a great resource for those lacking conventional skills. It seems like it will be great for the youth, but as has application to GenX and older. For example: my mother worked in food service all her life, but has spent the last 20 years as a homemaker. TheThings.biz could really bridge a gap and level the playing field no matter the age. Great idea.

Spam
Photo of Geordie McClelland
Team

Hi Alisha, Thanks for the kind words. You point about other generations is a great one. When we first thought of theThings.biz, we were really focused on finding something that could work to help young people who entered the workforce during the recession and who struggled to start their careers. But as the idea has taken shape and as we've gotten more feedback from users, it seems there might be applications for this kind of evaluation for people at many different stages of their careers - from "mid-career switches" to parents reentering the workforce after being full-time career givers. Right now, we are thinking we should focus on showing some success with this young and disconnected population from a placement and career advancement perspective before extending it out to serve other populations. That said, there are a couple of services out there that are helping some of these other populations - there's one in particular your mother should check out: https://www.momcorps.com

Thanks again for your support and for signing up - and please let me know if you think of ways that we can improve the experience on theThings.biz and make it more useful tool for either job seekers or companies.

Spam
Photo of priyanka botny
Team

Geordie,
Have you seen this before? http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=facebook&lk=4&num=1
I thought I will share this with you. I was trying to build an app that can analyse FB data and sync with job sites - as a prototype. This may be of some help to you too.

Spam
Photo of Luisa Fernanda
Team

Priyanka and Geordie,
Both your ideas have a great deal of overlap. Interesting to see you sharing tips and insights,
Keep the collaboration going,
Luisa

Spam
Photo of Geordie McClelland
Team

Hi Priyanka - I'd seen Wolfram before but hadn't thought about it in the context of what I'm doing. You are right though - this could be a very interesting layer on top of the data that we are already gathering and displaying. Thanks for sharing!

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