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How skills matching can bridge the gaps

Duggan Flanakin Duggan Journalist and policy analyst

While enjoying a cup of joe the other day, I overheard two fellows talking about job seeking. One lamented that the well-known big box retailer he worked for, had him – a guy with years of experience in the lumber business — stocking shelves, while “17 year olds” with no product knowledge were hired to sell lumber and plumbing supplies.

“They don’t even match skill sets,” he growled, “…so guys like me who could actually help customers don’t get looked at.”

One company that does match skill sets is Cincinnati- and Toronto-based tilr (http://tilr.com). tilr leverages artificial intelligence (AI) in talent management through an increasingly sophisticated algorithm to match universes of job applicants, past and present (including existing employees), to the skill sets a company has determined are applicable to available positions. tilr lists over 50,000 skills that are applicable to job categories, from high tech to hospitality to engineering and more.

tilr boasts that there are already 65 million Americans resident in their database with skills, many of whom are unemployed or looking for another job. In the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, an estimated 48 percent of the American workforce are job hunting. But are they willing, based on their current understanding of the marketplace, to go through the steps to be interviewed and hired for the specific jobs available? It is crystal clear that they seek a different and fresh candidate experience.

Established in 2016, tilr has rapidly captured the attention of the business media and employers. The company was featured as one of the Upstart 100 Most Promising Startups by CNBC; as a Top 10 Startup Outside of Silicon Valley by VentureBeat; and as one of the Top 5 Startups to Watch by Forbes. The company says it is one of the first enterprises using AI rather than resumes to match skills.

Skills, Not Resumes
Co-founder of tilr, Stephen Shefsky, started out three decades ago helping job seekers find employment in the New York metropolitan area by publishing a help wanted classified advertising newspaper with a digital presence on Prodigy. Advertisers were given access to the ‘Employment Press’ resume database by using a simple keyword search technology. How times have changed.

According to Shefsky. “Our technology connects job seekers and employers in innovative ways. By focusing on skills and abilities, we have created an unbiased, automated matching technology that allows qualified job seekers and employers to find each other. Already we have about 2.5 million jobs a day coming through our platform.”

Shefsky says that tilr began by considering the possibilities – “Our experiences,” he said, “…have taught us to define human resources (HR) as the sum of all skills within a given company. So, we asked ourselves, ‘How can we leverage this data to help HR teams?’ We determined that it was more efficient to connect talent to opportunities using a dynamic algorithm that matches workers’ skill sets and company needs, rather than relying on work history and often outdated job titles.”

tilr began as a skills matching platform for independent contractors, connecting them to employment opportunities. In the wake of COVID-19, tilr increased its focus to include full-time workers and restructured its technology, launching a brand-new version that involves both skill mapping and skill matching. Additionally, the tilr platform summarizes rankings for hard and soft skills and the relative value of each skill to the specific job at hand.

Hiring Without Bias
The algorithm-driven platform provides the matches, based on candidates’ skills, who are qualified for the position – employers are provided this data without knowing the candidates’ names, gender, ethnicity, and other information (like their ZIP codes) that can bias hiring choices. Thus, tilr provides a gateway for minorities and others whose academic credentials leave them too often ignored by employers.

Job applicants accustomed to relying on their resumes and credentials – and often their connections – when seeking employment may need coaching to incorporate the skills they possess that greatly enhance their employability. Similarly, companies accustomed to hiring via resumes may have to dig deep to identify the actual skills required to improve their bottom line.

The tilr approach for HR professionals is to use its software to draw a picture of the company’s skills map to reveal both strengths and weaknesses that are often not being addressed. This in turn helps HR departments sharpen their focus on hiring to fill areas of greatest need – and to better utilize their existing personnel and conduct talent rediscovery at the company level.

It’s simple! From either web desktop or smartphone, job seekers download the tilr app and answer a set of questions to enroll in the database. The company even provides feedback to app users to help them improve the accuracy of their answers and thus enhance their chances. The tilr Launch Pad provides job seekers with profile-driven information about the industries with the best fit for their skills, jobs that are currently available, and the top companies hiring both locally and nationally.

All within the app, you can post a job, match with candidates in seconds, schedule an interview through the company’s Zoom integration, and make the hire, saving the company time and money.

But tilr does not just take job seekers at face value. The company has partnered with TrainUp.com to enable job seekers access to over 300,000 online training courses (using the Launch Pad app) so they can gain new, marketable job skills. All of these training courses are either free or offered at a heavily discounted (tilr group) rate.

Employers can use tilr’s technology to map the company’s existing skills by inventorying the skills sets possessed by existing employees. tilr’s technology can further translate a company’s Talent Network’s prior applicants who were not hired but who have already shown an interest in the company, identifying skills that may be valuable to the company today. This ability alone cuts the cost per applicant by 80 percent.

Shefsky also touts tilr’s ability to perform a ‘skills audit’ that identifies both transferable skills and importantly, weaknesses within an organization that need shoring up or strengths that are not being fully exploited. This information, used wisely, can be very beneficial, especially to smaller companies, by enabling them to shift responsibilities to improve overall productivity (and profits).

tilr’s skills mapping can even help the public sector identify certain skills gaps that can be marketed to find locations for new enterprises. Mapping can demonstrate any given employment opportunity in an area and even prompt a city council to recruit such businesses to better serve their constituencies.

The company continues to focus on targeting HR executives who may lack a clear picture of the skills needed for the jobs they are trying to fill. At the same time, tilr is increasing daily the number of jobs and applicants to which the system has access to make matches.

Shefsky says his goal for tilr to be known as a company that has built and continuously improved upon its technology that helps the job seeker and the company. “Our technology saves time and money for the employer and gets the employee in the right job sooner.”

“We see our skills matching technology as the way companies will hire today and in the future,” Shefsky concluded. “If we do it well,” he mused, “we will change people’s lives.”

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