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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
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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 http://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 http://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 http://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

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Photo of Liz Duffy
Team

Very impressive website! Happy to connect you to Isles Youth Institute in Trenton, NJ if that would be of interest. See http://www.isles.org/services/isles-youth-institute/about#.U_BfurxdWFY. Good luck.

Photo of Geordie McClelland
Team

Hi Liz - Thanks so much. I'd welcome any chance to share our story with IYI and see if we might a resource for them. Thank you for the offer - my email is geordie@thethings.biz

Photo of Liz Duffy
Team

Sorry for the delay in responding. I just returned from vacation and am swamped at work. I'll make an email introduction now to IYI. Liz

Photo of Geordie McClelland
Team

Hi Liz - no worries at all. Thank you so much for the intro - I'm following up now.

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