Time to stop with the proxy hiring.

published on 01 February 2022

The HR department is tasked with investing in a company's future by strategically selecting employees. This process takes time and costs money. Therefore, the criteria for hiring must be carefully considered.

Recent statistics show that the average cost of hiring an employee is $4,129. In addition, it takes about 42 days to fill a position.

Grade Point Average (GPA) and previous titles have become the standard decision factors. However, recent research has shown that companies that use too many proxies are hiring on an irrelevant basis.

If you don't hire by proxies, what should the criteria be? Proxy bias can have a negative impact on the company. Instead, employee skills should be the focus to find Company-Worker Fit.

What is Hiring By Proxy?

Large companies will be familiar with the lengthy hiring process, overseen with red tape and strict requirements. Smaller companies tend to be more flexible in their hiring process. Regardless of the size of the company, the hiring process typically considers certain proxies when reviewing candidates.

Hiring by proxy uses the title of a previous job or years in a position to assess an applicant's skills. Another common method is hiring based on the candidate's college education.

In many ways, hiring by proxy is an unconscious act. Data provided by Longitudinal Educational Outcome (LEO) shows that different qualifications, institutions, and even demographic characteristics can affect a person's earning potential.

There are some proxies used by both employers and recruiters. Some of the most common are the following.

  • The university the candidate attended and the degree they studied.
  • The location, which makes remote work and cost of living a challenge for potential candidates
  • Age is a proxy based on a generational bias
  • Years of experience, which should be carefully considered alongside natural ability and skill level

In many ways, hiring by proxy has evolved as a shortcut based on past patterns of success. Hiring managers take note of a credible attribute on CV and assume that the candidate is a good fit. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and more and more companies are opening their eyes to the untapped pool of potential.

The problem with hiring by proxy

There is growing concern that the salary benefits reserved for hires by proxy are disproportionate to their skills. In turn, there may be other candidates who have better skills but not necessarily the same GPA.

There are several problems with hiring by proxy that can diminish its value.

For example, many large companies place a high value on a particular proxy that may not be relevant to the position. While the candidate may look good on paper, the end result is an inability to do the job effectively.

Keep in mind that top candidates who typically have experience at a company FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) or attended a top university are considered a fit for any company. While they may have a foot in the door because of their CV, their experience may be irrelevant.

Mid-level candidates may work for big brands, but the company's hiring standards may be subpar. Even worse, perhaps the candidate's performance in the role was unremarkable, or the candidate doesn't fit the new company culture.

Positive proxies can lead to assumptions. This, in turn, leads to appropriate vetting methods and interview techniques being bypassed or neglected.

Hiring by proxy risks overlooking excellent candidates and hiring based solely on reputation on paper. Companies end up hiring from the same pool of talent and overlook a group of highly qualified candidates who have untapped potential.

The Current Attitude to hiring by proxy

Employers still prefer college graduates and choose to hire by proxy every year. Once hired, time is invested in training the employer while paying competitive salaries and promising the opportunity for advancement.

However, the favor for graduates is not based on the individual's contribution to the company. Instead, it contributes to a kind of graduate premium.

While reputation remains one factor, another is becoming increasingly important - the skills and attributes of the candidate.

There is an obvious trend towards hiring candidates who have certain skills. While qualifications and institutions have a token importance, more and more employers are focusing on skills and personal qualities.

The solution to holistic hiring

The attitude towards hiring is changing.

The nonspecific preference for college graduates is reflected in recent statistics released by the Institute for Student Employers (ISE). Consider the following.

  • The majority of employers (86%) say they are not hiring for specific majors
  • Only 2% of employers set a postgraduate degree as a minimum requirement
  • Only 15% of employers believe that employees with a postgraduate degree are better qualified than applicants without a degree
  • Approximately 22% of employers no longer specify minimum qualifications in job advertisements (and this number is increasing)
  • An estimated 38% of employers are changing the institutions they target to increase diversity

There is no doubt that qualifications and institutions have value. They have symbolic power and indicate a certain level of qualification. However, it is short-sighted and narrow-minded to hire based solely on these criteria.

Additional skills and an applicant's personality must be carefully considered. Proven skills indicate the ability to do a job effectively, and an applicant's personality shows whether he or she is a good fit for the company culture.

But what are the skills that catch the attention of hiring managers?

Skills to consider in the hiring process

Regardless of the industry or size of the company, there are a few skills that stand out.


The ability to communicate effectively lays the foundation for great work. Communication is essential to working as a team, sharing information, taking direction, and closing deals. This skill encompasses several aspects of communication, including writing, speaking, listening, and negotiating.

Strong communication skills are in high demand. In an online world, these skills are best displayed when exercised in writing and verbally.


There is power in numbers. Business goals are best achieved when the entire team is working towards a common goal. When you hire a new employee to join your team, it's important that they know how to communicate, collaborate, and do their part.

Teamwork lays the foundation for a successful job, from achieving big goals to bringing happiness to the office every day. A true team player is able to cooperate and will work with others, putting the success of the team before themselves.

The ability to learn

Successful companies have a reliable system that is adaptable to stay ahead of the competition. New employees must be able to adapt as needed. The ability to learn is a skill that covers a broad spectrum. It includes hard, technical skills as well as the ability to adapt to changing situations.

A good attitude is also a trait that should not be taken for granted in a constantly changing environment.


A valuable employee is able to manage their own time and tasks without being micromanaged. There is a fine line between being proactive and following instructions and working as part of a team. A talented employee will be able to find the balance.

Self-management involves the ability to prioritize tasks, focus on professional growth, organize responsibilities, and have a deep well of self-motivation. A candidate who is able to manage their work independently should have an excellent understanding of their job and be able to problem solve.

Strong work ethic

It is not uncommon for some candidates from top institutions to display an attitude of entitlement. This attitude, in turn, can have a negative impact on work ethic and productivity. The ability to complete tasks and meet deadlines without being driven by them is an invaluable skill that cannot be taught.

An employee with a strong work ethic can be trusted to manage their work effectively. Goals are achieved with a professional attitude and respectful loyalty.

Relevant Hard Skills

The above qualities are all soft skills that have high value. However, a positive attitude and the ability to work as part of a team do not reflect knowledge or scope.

There are a few hard skills that are relevant in many industries and are very valuable when hiring in 2021. For example, computer skills and the ability to learn different programs. As well as social media skills and being familiar with the power of online messaging.

The solution to effective hiring

Recruiters face a reputation problem. In many cases, they would rather hire an average performer from a mid-sized company than a top performer from an unknown company. This may speed up the hiring process, but it costs the company in the long run.

Substitutions are worth considering, but should not necessarily be the deciding factor. Conscious use of proxies is a sustainable way to approach the hiring process.

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