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Can self-assertions in the hiring process be strengthened by skills validation?

The hiring and promotion process is rife with self-assertion challenges. The Skills Validation Network is addressing these challenges by developing a storytelling prototype to help opportunity seekers discover their skills — and hiring managers feel more confident in their decisions.

This is the second post in a Skills Validation Network blog series. Read the first.

By Meghan Raftery, XCredit instructional designer at Education Design Lab

A position opens up for an important project and needs to be filled immediately.

Cover letters and resumes for internal and external candidates are pre-sorted using hiring software, narrowing a list of hundreds down to a few dozen for interviews. Interview questions are designed to clarify the skill set needed for the position.

But are written and verbal responses in these processes, i.e. self-assertions of skills, enough to know if candidates can actually perform the job quickly and well? What if there was a way to know which candidates actually have the skills needed? What if self-assertions could be strengthened by skills validation?

In our previous post in the Skills Validation Network blog series, What + How: A formula for skills validation methods, my colleague Dr. Tara Laughlin shared a (draft) formula for defining skills validation methods.

Since the summer of 2023, the Network has been exploring and prototyping tools to enable three initial methods of interest:

  • Experience translation
  • Self-assertion
  • Skills demonstration

Today, we’ll share early insights and work in progress from the work group focusing on Self-assertion.

Specifically, we’ll take a look at how self-assertion currently dominates our hiring, staffing, and promotion processes and how we might strengthen those processes through skills validation methods.

A self-assertion is an individual’s statement of their own skills and proficiency levels. This could be a verbal response to an interview question, a resume, or a written narrative about a personal performance.

Once we defined self-assertion as a skills validation method, we uncovered an important insight: self-assertion is currently the dominant skills validation method used in hiring, staffing, and promotion.

Self-identification of skills are used more than any other method to determine the skill set of current and existing employees. This insight was quickly followed by another: many people have difficulty identifying their own skills. Beyond our own anecdotal examples, we’re reminded of a series of studies from the book Insight by Tasha Eurich, which found that even though a majority of people believe they are self-aware, only 10 to 15 percent of people they studied actually fit the criteria.

With these two insights, the self-assertion work group decided to focus their prototype development on skills discovery, working from a simple hypothesis:

Giving people the chance to discover their skills first eases the process of identifying and asserting their own skills.

The hiring and promotion process is rife with self-assertion challenges. Here are a few the group identified as we began to develop our prototype:

  • Opportunity seekers assert skills they don’t have on a resume, whether it be stretching the truth or just a lack of self-awareness.
  • An opportunity seeker is promoted internally because they think they have a skill, but it does not translate to a new context.
  • A long-time employee does not apply for a position they are qualified for because they believe they’re not skilled enough.

Our self-assertion work group is eager to help address these challenges by helping people discover their skills through a storytelling prototype.

Through this prototype, users can discover their skills by answering a series of open-ended questions in three categories:

  1. Context (personal + professional experiences you have engaged in)
  2. Activities (things you have done)
  3. Skills (things you are best at)



After answering the series of questions, users’ responses will be mapped against the Lab’s durable skills competency framework. This will allow them to confidently self-assert their skills or strengthen them with a skills validation method, like assessments, experience translation, and skills demonstration.

Let’s imagine what this could look like:

A position opens up for an important project and needs to be filled immediately. After viewing a skills-based job description, internal and external candidates are given the opportunity to upload cover letters, resumes, and other employment documents into a self-assertion engine. Prior to their interview, candidates answer a series of questions about their experiences. The questions are designed to unlock skills the candidates may not realize they have, uncovering how those skills could be valuable in the context of the project. After uploading their documents and answering the questions, the opportunity seeker gets a skills transcript that allows them to speak more clearly and confidently about their skills at their interview. The transcript also gives them tips about assessments and other validators they can take to earn a badge, which further signals to employers that this candidate is a good fit for the open position.

Opportunity seekers are familiar with requests for self-assertions in the hiring and promotion process, but they need ways to strengthen their ability to name their skills. Through a skills discovery process, they can learn to articulate their skills in terms employers are looking for.

Next steps for this working group will include user research, determining both what skills employers would like to hear about from opportunity seekers as well as the kind of user experience opportunity seekers need and want to discover their skills. We are exploring how to leverage AI to match the stories of users with the skills frameworks important to employers so hiring managers can feel more confident in their staffing decisions, filling positions efficiently and effectively with the right candidate with the right skills for the job.

Stay tuned for Part 3, where we’ll continue to explore how skills validation methods can strengthen self-assertions in the hiring process, as well as share progress of the other Skills Validation Network working groups.

We would love to hear from you!

What role does self-assertion play in your hiring and promotion processes? How might skills validation strengthen those processes? Do you have a tool or an idea related to this prototype? Reach out to us at


Meghan Raftery is an instructional designer on the XCredit team. She has an extensive  background in competency-based education and skills validation, having developed performance-based assessments and micro-credentials for K-12 and adult learners for more than 15 years. Meghan leads the self-assertion work group for the Skills Validation Network.