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LinkedIn's belief in skills-based hiring reshapes its tech

LinkedIn is using a new technology approach to find relationships between skills, which it expects will deliver better results to job seekers and recruiters.

The shift to skills-based hiring is changing how job seekers and recruiters find each other on LinkedIn.

The professional network platform has been adjusting its technological approach to surface relationships between skills and facilitate skills-based hiring. The platform developed a taxonomy of about 40,000 skills based on what it learned from its user base.

But every skill was siloed and not connected in a relationship, said Sofus Macskássy, director of engineering and data at LinkedIn, in an interview. He said initially, skills were collected without structure or relationship to a particular job, but skills tend to cluster around some function. The relationships between skills have now been mapped in a project called Skills Graph.

According to LinkedIn and analysts, the upshot of the project is that job seekers should get better job matches and recruiters should see better qualified candidates. The benefits of these changes will be even clearer if job seekers keep their profiles updated and if recruiters focus on skills-based hiring, not bias defaults, such as favoring graduates of specific schools.

Macskássy led the team that built the Skills Graph. It looks to establish relationships between skills but can also infer them. It relies on machine learning and other AI technologies. He and other team members detailed this approach in a blog Wednesday.

Finding relationships between skills means "we can detect that 'cost management' in a job seeker's profile is relevant to a job posting that lists 'project budgeting' as a required skill," they wrote.

The engineering team has worked on the skills-based hiring project over the last two years and started quietly deploying the technology over the past two quarters. Job seekers should see the effects of this technology approach in the jobs recommended to them. It can also explain why those jobs are getting recommended.

Users benefit from keeping their profiles up-to-date with these skills, Macskássy said. "Assuming that you add the right skills, we can find you the right job."

Assuming that you add the right skills, we can find you the right job.
Sofus MacskássyDirector of engineering and data, LinkedIn

Focusing on skills may reduce biases, such as favoring people in certain networks, by emphasizing skills-first hiring. "Skills is a great equalizer," he said.

Macskássy said that based on metrics they track, such as an increase in the percentage of people who apply for jobs and the number of people hired through the LinkedIn platform, the new approach is working.

Skills-based hiring is gaining ground as employers shift away from college degrees as an absolute requirement for many jobs. The federal government has adopted a skills-based hiring approach, and White House officials have urged employers to broadly make skills-based hiring a priority.

Evelyn McMullen, an analyst at Nucleus Research, said LinkedIn's skills-based hiring approach makes sense. The "Skills graph would improve job matching because users often list broader skills that may include a subset or related skill that would be unrecognized by matching technology that does not leverage AI," she said.

The successful use of skills on LinkedIn can expand an employer's pool of qualified candidates and increase the applicant rate, McMullen said. It can "give jobseekers more targeted search results and suggestions when searching on the platform," she added.

This matchmaking is "more efficient than the typical job board 'post-and-pray' approach and can save recruiters time while accelerating the hiring process," McMullen said. Success will depend, in part, on users and "their willingness to regularly update the skills on their profile so that they are matched with relevant opportunities."

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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