Skill Based Hiring: Revolutionizing Recruitment for the Modern Workforce

By July 10, 2023HR & Recruitment

Skill-based hiring is a recruiting approach that seeks to broaden the definition of qualifications to be more inclusive of experience rather than relying on training and education.

By embracing skill-based hiring, organizations can create a more dynamic and inclusive workplace, drive innovation, and better align their talent with business needs. It encourages a shift from traditional, qualification-focused hiring practices to a more agile, competency-based approach that is better suited for the demands of the modern workplace.

What is skill-based hiring?

Skill-based hiring is an approach to talent acquisition that focuses on the specific skills, abilities, and knowledge that a candidate possesses, rather than their rather than relying solely on traditional qualifications such as having a bachelor’s degree or a strict number on the minimum years of experience.

Companies who implement skills based hiring increase the number and quality of the qualified applicants for open positions. They also boost retention rates by helping employees uncover more opportunities for growth and development through internal mobility.

Skill based hiring promotes greater diversity in the workplace and generates better job opportunities for a broader range of workers.

How is skill-based hiring different from traditional hiring?

In traditional hiring, employers often rely heavily on a candidate’s employment history, academic degrees, and formal credentials. This approach often overlooks candidates who have the necessary skills for the job but who may have acquired them through unconventional or non-traditional means.

This is different from skill-based hiring, which \prioritizes a candidate’s proficiencies, abilities, and knowledge over their academic qualifications or employment history.

By focusing on the skills a candidate has, rather than the path they took to acquire them, skill-based hiring can improve diversity and retention. It enables employers to find candidates who are truly capable of performing the tasks required by a job, ultimately lead to future performance and a more effective and satisfied workforce.

Some benefits of skill-based hiring include:

  • Greater diversity—By removing the focus on traditional qualifications like degrees, skill-based hiring can provide opportunities for candidates from underrepresented backgrounds who might have valuable skills but lack formal credentials.
  • Better retention—Employees are more likely to stay in a role that matches their skills and abilities, leading to better employee engagement, lower turnover rates and higher job satisfaction.
  • Improved performance—When candidates are hired based on their relevant skills, they are more likely to perform well and contribute effectively to a team.

Skill based hiring offers an alternative approach to talent acquisition by prioritizing an individual’s abilities and competencies over their educational or professional background. When employers focus on skills, they can create diverse, high-performing teams that contribute to the overall success of a company.

The shift to skill-based hiring

Recently, employers are shifting away from degree based hiring and into skill based hiring. This change in the hiring process had been coming for some time due to changes in the market, but the largest driver of the shift to a skills based hiring approach was the Covid-19 pandemic.

Impact of the covid-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for a more adaptable workforce, resulting in an increased demand for skill-based hiring.

This approach focuses on candidates’ abilities and competencies rather than merely relying on degrees and certifications. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of a versatile workforce that can quickly adjust to changing business landscapes.

More and more, employers are examining candidates based on their skills, regardless of formal education or prior experience.

Leadership and industry adoption

Leading organizations like IBM have embraced skill-based hiring practices as a way to diversify their talent pool, mitigating the limitations imposed by traditional degree-centric hiring.

Skills-based hiring has been adopted across a wide range of industries, from technology to healthcare, as a means to identify the right fit by matching the candidates’ skillset with job requirements.

Advantages of skill-based hiring

  • Broader talent pool—This method can help organizations access a more diverse and skilled workforce, particularly among those without formal education or prior experience in a specific field.
  • Improved employee performance—Employees hired based on their skills are more likely to perform better and adapt to their roles quickly, leading to increased productivity.
  • Lower employee turnover rates—Employees who are better suited to the roles they fill are more likely to be satisfied with their work and will remain in the organization for a longer period.

HR and job postings

In order to support skill-based hiring initiatives, HR departments must adapt their job postings and recruitment processes. New strategies may include:

  • Highlighting required skills and competencies rather than degrees or certifications.
  • Offering candidate assessments that help to narrow down candidates based on their relevant skills.
  • Incorporating skill-building opportunities, such as training and development programs, that help candidates adapt to new roles.

Making these changes helps organizations attract a more diverse and qualified pool of talent making it more likely employees will have the necessary skills to thrive in a rapidly-changing business environment.

Benefits of skill-based hiring

Skill-based hiring offers numerous benefits, including improved candidate assessment, better alignment with job requirements, enhanced diversity and inclusion, increased employee performance, adaptability, cost savings, and improved employee engagement and retention.

By prioritizing skills, organizations can build a talented workforce that drives success and innovation.

Greater talent pool diversity

Skill-based hiring helps to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

By focusing on abilities and skills, rather than on degrees or work history, it levels the playing field for candidates from various backgrounds, including those who may not have had traditional educational opportunities.

This recruiting strategy enables organizations to tap into a broader talent pool. It also encourages the inclusion of underrepresented groups such as women and minorities.

Because of this, businesses can benefit from a wider range of perspectives and experiences that contribute to innovation and problem-solving.

Employee satisfaction and retention

When organizations hire based on skills and abilities, employees are more likely to feel valued for their unique capabilities. This helps increase employee engagement by cultivating job satisfaction and creating a sense of belonging within the company.

Skill-based hiring leads to better employee retention, as workers are more likely to remain in roles that coincide with their strengths and interests and well-positioned employees are more likely to be promoted.

By prioritizing skill development and growth opportunities, companies can foster a culture of continuous learning and engagement, boosting employee retention in the long run.

Improved job performance

Emphasizing skills during the hiring process allows organizations to identify candidates who possess the specific talents needed for a given role. This, in turn, can result in improved job performance, as employees are better equipped to meet the demands of their positions right from the start.

A skills-based approach to hiring ensures that candidates are assessed based on their ability to excel in a particular role, ultimately leading to increased productivity and higher quality work.

By focusing on the benefits of skill-based hiring, organizations can reap significant advantages in terms of talent management, diversity, and overall success.

Overcoming traditional hiring norms

In adopting skill-based hiring practices, organizations can improve the accuracy of candidate assessment, increase diversity and inclusion, and better align talent with job requirements. It requires a shift in mindset, thorough planning, and ongoing commitment to creating a talent acquisition process that focuses on skills and competencies.

Rethinking degree requirements

Over the years, companies have started to question the importance of degree requirements for various roles. This shift can be attributed to the growing realization that a college degree does not necessarily guarantee the relevant skills needed for a specific job.

As a result, many businesses are opting for a skills-based hiring approach, which focuses on the abilities and practical experience of candidates for high skill positions rather than their educational background.

Organizations are beginning to understand that, in many cases, work experience and hands-on exposure to specific tasks hold more value for future success than college degrees.

For instance, the state of Maryland no longer requires degrees for almost 50 percent of its positions, opening up opportunities for individuals with diverse skill sets. This transition encourages employers to focus on real-world skills rather than academic achievements.

Focusing on practical skills

When adopting a skills-based hiring approach, companies concentrate on finding candidates with the most relevant practical skills for the role. These might include:

  • In-demand skills—Employers look for specific expertise that corresponds to the current needs of the job market.
  • Technical abilities—Roles that require technical knowledge and skills can be assessed better through practical evaluations, not just academic qualifications.
  • Soft skills—Communication, teamwork, and problem-solving abilities are essential skills that contribute to job performance.

By focusing on practical skills, employers can identify candidates with the right combination of experience and abilities, irrespective of their educational background. This approach not only improves the hiring process but also ensures a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Ultimately, companies that adopt these practices overcome the traditional hiring norms and create a more dynamic, skilled team.

Evaluating skills and abilities

By balancing the evaluation of skills with other factors such as cultural fit, motivation, and potential for growth companies can better determine a candidate’s ability to learn and adapt to new situations. This indicates their potential for future career development.

Skills inventory

A crucial first step in skills-based hiring is creating a skills inventory, which helps both employers and job seekers understand the range of skills required for a particular position.

By identifying key job requirements and breaking them down into individual skills and abilities, companies and hiring managers can better match candidates to roles based on what they can actually do, rather than what is listed on their resume or professional certifications.

Assessing soft skills

Soft skills refer to personal attributes and traits that help an individual work well with others, adapt to new situations, and effectively solve problems.

In a skills-based hiring process, it’s important to assess candidates’ soft skills to ensure they will be able to thrive in a teamwork-focused environment. Some ways to assess soft skills include behavioral interviews, situational assessments, and role-playing exercises.

Assessing hard skills

Hard skills are technical, task-specific expertise that can be directly applied to a job role. These skills are often measurable and can be gained through education, training, or on-the-job experience.

A skills-based approach to assessing hard skills might include relevant skills assessments, practical exercises, or specific certification requirements. Companies can benefit from evaluating candidates based on their ability to demonstrate these skills during the hiring process.


Testing potential employees’ skills and abilities can be done through a variety of methods. A particularly useful method is the performance-based assessment.

The company, TrueAbility has developed both performance-based assessments and blended assessments, which blend multi-choice assessments.



Contact TrueAbility today to find out how skills tests effectively can support the professional growth and development of your current employees, align their skills with organizational needs, and enhance their overall performance.


The role of technology in skill-based hiring

By leveraging technology in skill-based hiring, organizations can streamline the assessment process, reduce bias, and gain insights into candidates’ skills and abilities. It enables efficient evaluation of candidates’ capabilities, enhances the objectivity of hiring decisions, and helps identify top talent with the required skills for organizational success.

Digital transformation and sourcing

Digital transformation has been rapidly changing the way human resources departments operate.

With the adoption of new technologies, companies are now able to effectively manage their talent sourcing process. By leveraging technology, businesses have access to a wider range of qualified talent and are able to focus on the competencies that matter most for their organization.

With the rise of skills-based hiring in the digital age, companies are seeing the benefit of using technical tools to enhance their recruitment strategies. Some of these tools include:

  • Applicant tracking systems (ATS)—Technology helps recruiters narrow down candidate pools through the use of automated filters and search functionality based on specified skills and qualifications.
  • Automated talent sourcing—Tools such as machine learning algorithms can successfully identify and engage passive candidates with the desired skills needed for open positions.
  • Virtual interviews and assessments—Videoconferencing technology and online assessment platforms support efficiency in the evaluation of candidate skills before making a hiring decision.

Through the effective incorporation of technology in the recruitment process, companies can both expand their search for suitable qualified candidates and streamline the entire hiring process. It also leads to a more diverse and inclusive talent pool, ensuring that skills and competencies are the main criteria for candidate selection.

Addressing the talent market challenges

Addressing job market challenges requires a combination of proactive efforts, ongoing learning, adaptability, and perseverance. Companies should continuously assess and refine their talent search strategies based on market trends and feedback received.

The great attrition and recruiting strategies

A confluence of factors, including an aging workforce, declining labor force participation, early retirements, and increased savings, has contributed to a labor shortage across key industries. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has highlighted these issues, calling for businesses to adapt their recruiting strategies to address the growing problem.

One method to tackle these challenges is through the use of skills-based hiring, which prioritizes a candidate’s skills over their employment history or academic degrees.

By focusing on skills data, businesses can more effectively identify talented individuals who may have been overlooked in traditional recruitment processes. Additionally, incorporating storytelling into job postings and other marketing materials can help attract potential candidates who may be more interested in meaningful work with clear objectives.

To support the shift to skills-based hiring, companies also need to reimagine their job titles and positions to better reflect the required skills needed for success. This ensures that candidates understand the expectations of the role and can make more informed hiring decisions about whether it fits their skillset.

Dealing with labor shortages in key industries

Some industries, such as engineering, are particularly affected by labor and talent shortages. Issues like childcare needs and the demand for flexible work arrangements complicate the recruiting landscape, making it even more difficult for employers to attract top talent.

To address these concerns, companies should adopt flexible work policies that cater to the diverse needs of their workforce, including providing support for childcare and offering remote work options. By doing so, they can create a more inclusive and attractive work environment that draws talented individuals from a variety of backgrounds.

Businesses should also invest in training and development programs to help upskill and reskill their existing workforce. This approach not only helps alleviate the labor and talent shortage but also promotes employee retention and engagement.

Addressing talent market challenges requires companies to adopt innovative recruiting strategies and supportive workplace policies. By focusing on skills-based hiring, reimagining job titles, and promoting inclusivity, businesses can attract and retain the talent needed to thrive in today’s competitive environment.

Upskilling and talent development

By prioritizing upskilling and talent development, organizations can cultivate a skilled workforce, enhance employee engagement and retention, develop a culture of continuous learning, and position themselves for long-term success in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

Generative AI and digitization

In the wake of the recession and the great attrition, businesses have turned to innovative methods for talent development, with upskilling being a key focus.

One such innovation is the use of generative AI to identify and analyze skills gaps in the workforce.

The technology enables organizations to pinpoint areas of improvement and create personalized learning and career paths for employees, facilitating smooth transitions during digitization processes.

The impact of digitization on the workforce has been significant. As digital tools and automation become more prominent in various industries, employees need to continuously develop their skills to stay competitive in the job market.

Employer investments in employee growth

Companies across sectors, especially those in finance and technology, are increasingly investing in talent development as a strategic priority. By providing options for upskilling and reskilling, organizations can retain their valuable employees while fostering a future-proof workforce.

Some of the benefits of employer investments in employee growth include:

  • Reduced turnoverAs employees see their employers investing in their growth, job satisfaction increases, leading to a lower likelihood of leaving for other opportunities.
  • Increased productivityUpskilled employees bring new skills to their roles, improving efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace.
  • Adaptability:A workforce that continuously develops new skills can adapt more easily to changes in the industry and economic landscape.

Upskilling and talent development are crucial factors for organizations to consider as they navigate the rapidly changing world of work. Leveraging tools like generative AI and digitization, as well as investing in employee growth, can minimize turnover, boost productivity, and ensure long-term success.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is skill-based hiring?

Skill-based hiring is a talent acquisition approach for a hiring manager that focuses on a candidate’s skills and competencies, rather than simply taking into account their educational background or job titles. By evaluating an individual’s abilities, employers can find candidates that are more aligned with their organization’s needs and culture.

Why are organizations moving towards more skills based recruiting and skill-based hiring?

Organizations are adopting skills-based hiring practices to address the evolving talent landscape and respond to the skills gap. By focusing on what a candidate can do, rather than the credentials they possess, employers can uncover new talent pipelines, minimize bias in the hiring process, and improve overall job fit.

How does a company implement skills based hiring practices?

To implement skill-based hiring, companies can start by examining and updating their job descriptions to emphasize measurable skills and abilities rather than formal requirements. Next, they can use behavioral and skills-based interview questions to assess how well a candidate performs in certain situations. Lastly, organizations can leverage technology to assess and match skill sets with potential roles.

How does skill-based hiring support diversity and inclusion efforts?

Skill-based hiring removes barriers that can disproportionately affect certain groups of candidates, such as relying heavily on educational background or prior job titles. By focusing on skills and competencies, employers can create a fairer and more inclusive hiring process that allows the same opportunities for a broader range of candidates to be considered for positions.


To implement successful upskilling and talent development initiatives, organizations should conduct skills assessments, identify skill gaps, and design tailored training programs. These programs can include workshops, online courses, mentoring, job rotations, and opportunities for experiential learning. It is crucial to develop a culture that encourages and supports continuous learning, provides resources for development, and aligns individual development goals with organizational objectives.

Jodi Mai began her career as a recruiter after college. She moved into an HR Generalist role and later, into HR management, working on such topics as employee relations, benefit administration, and payroll. Over the last 15 years, she has worked in the talent acquisition and management industry, and since 2018, Jodi has expanded to HR consulting and writing on HR and recruitment topics.

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About TrueAbililty 

TrueAbility is a trusted global performance-based technical assessment provider offering a community ecosystem allowing technical professionals and employers to collaborate and measure skill sets through AbilityScreen®. AbilityScreen is the only fully-managed performance-based technical assessment platform operating in a live, cloud environment that automates recruiting and hiring processes to definitively assess and qualify a technical professional’s technology experience.

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