Why Pedigree is a Misleading Proxy for a Developer’s Efficiency and Skills

It’s true what they say, “getting a job is a full-time job.” After all, as hiring becomes more global, recruiters are continually burdened with an influx of job applications.

On the opposite side of the equation are applicants, who are growing tired of the lengthy hiring process.

Hiring managers keep complaining about not finding the “right candidate” or there’s the problem of “skill gap”, but this notion is far from the truth. There isn’t a scarcity of skilled candidates, but the way companies hire developers is faulty.

HR for any company finds itself stuck in the same loop of copying their competitors’ hiring process (which is usually pedigree-based). Even though what they’re trying to do with their own company is fundamentally different.

Only a handful are ready to take a risk and hire someone who has the underlying capabilities but hasn’t had the job title before that company is hiring for.

The last interview round of the hiring process leaves the employer with a handful of employees who don’t necessarily have the skills. These handful candidates reach the final stage either because of pedigree or their relevant work experience in most cases.

What does it imply when we talk about “Potential over Pedigree” when hiring developers?

Pedigree is defined by where someone went to school, what degrees they completed, what jobs they’ve had—in what order and in what time frame—and how those fit the algorithms that reflect who is likely to have the needed skills. (Forbes)

A LinkedIn report indicates that more people are getting job offers for the skills they possess and what they bring to the table, and not for where they’ve been or what they’ve done. Credentials are losing importance over skills and competencies.

Skill-based hiring also opens a door of opportunity for both the hiring managers and candidates. It prompts employers to take a chance on someone who could be overlooked if hiring takes place the conventional way. For candidates, it gives them an opportunity to showcase their talent.

Why is it always not the best idea to give credentials and strict job requirements a priority?

Knowledge isn’t strength; building a skillset by making use of that knowledge is. Having a fancy college degree has become an essential investment for most of us.

But going to college and earning a degree isn’t a guarantor of success. And the idea here isn’t to prove that a degree is entirely worthless to pursue, but its impact on the job market has not been beneficial for many deserving candidates.

It’s not suitable for companies either because:

  1. a) In a candidate-driven market with many opportunities and offers, having strict job requirements based solely on pedigree places you at a significant competitive disadvantage. And as more and more companies are correcting course, you could be missing out big time by not doing the same.
  2. b) Relaxing the job requirement doesn’t mean that you have lowered your standards. Instead, it’s a signal that you’re determined to include steps necessary to find the right talent.
  3. c) By decluttering job descriptions and focusing on actual requirements you will also broaden your candidate pool and potentially encourage people from disadvantaged backgrounds and populations (women, LGBTQIA+, etc.) to apply.
  4. D) Skill-based hiring leads to higher retention. According to insights from LinkedIn, employees with a traditional degree tend to leave their jobs sooner than ones without a degree. It doesn’t indicate that those without a degree are afraid of finding another job; instead, they’re more engaged and feel that the company is betting on their success.

But what if the person who passed all the interviews despite the eased restrictions fails?

Tapping their Potential should be your way to go.

How do some people who lack the skills, experience, and education do so well at their new job? Potential is the answer. It is the ability to thrive in ever-growing complex roles and environments.

If skills aren’t proving to be the right candidate hiring and assessing approach, then see how quickly and easily prospective candidates can learn the new and necessary skills.

Employers can’t continually assess and be right about what the future holds in such a dynamic world or what capabilities they would require people at their company to have a few years down the line.

Potential could be assessed by observing if the candidate is:

  • motivated to thrive and accept challenging goals with a proper, mature mindset of putting the company’s goals over their personal.
  • showing a risk-taking attitude and an interest in pursuing new ideas.
  • observance of patterns can develop connections that others tend to overlook by being simply ignorant.
  • culturally fit—has strong engagement with the team at the workplace.
  • determined and strong-headed to beat obstacles.

Once you have a candidate that checks off the majority of the points above, start focusing on retaining them and helping them upskill. Offer opportunities that prompt them to take risks and not settle for anything in their comfort zone.

Your job descriptions ought to highlight “responsibilities” more instead of “requirements.”

While the hiring process involves due process, it begins with posting a basic job description. To become a more skill-based recruiter, you can first ensure that your job listing doesn’t focus on uncountable requirements but rather firmly on responsibilities.

Talk about the new hires’ expectations and the challenges they can expect in their day-to-day role. Try making an ask for a person that could deliver the results you’d like to see. Highlight the skill-set that you’re looking for in the candidate pool.

It will also help the applicants understand your company and the vacancy better. Skill-based job postings will give you a respected standing in the job market.

AI is not a magic spell.

When it comes to the recruitment process, AI should only help you streamline your workflow or partially manage your hiring. If you find yourself with thousands of irrelevant job applications for each job posting, the screening process is going to be time-consuming.

With help of skill-assessment software on the market, you can simplify the initial stage of your hiring as the core of these platforms is performance tasks to gauge skills.

AI should not be used to gauge if a person is fit for a particular job or an identifier of their interpersonal skills. Instead, use technology to recognize the candidates’ skill-set and then sort them into individual piles to quicken the process that involves some form of human touch as well.

Wrapping up.

Building a skill or potential-based team requires intention and commitment. Having an inclusive hiring process gives an equal opportunity to candidates who are more than the “right fit.”

Leading tech companies like Apple, Google, Netflix, and Tesla are reducing pedigree bias in hiring. This approach has helped job-seekers who don’t meet the stringent requirements—has given them a chance to enter an industry that they were keen to enter.

It’s time we all followed suit.


  • Sharad Panwar is a Growth Marketer at Adaface. When he’s not working, he is either learning MMA or discussing Politics and Philosophy.

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