How to Hire for Your Future: Skills-Based Hiring

by | Nov 21, 2023

Skills-based hiring means looking beyond traditional qualifications, like degrees and years of experience, and instead assessing a candidate’s competencies and practical applications of knowledge. 

The shift to skills-based hiring is happening across industries, with LinkedIn reporting a 21% increase in job postings advertising skills and responsibilities instead of qualifications since 2015. 

If you’re looking to staff a future-ready workforce, here’s how skills-based hiring can help. 

Why Is Skills-Based Hiring Trending Up?

When it comes to effective hiring, it’s about knowing what’s required to do a job and improve things along the way. That comes down to skills, competency, and motivation. Skills-based hiring focuses on key indicators of success. 

There has been rapid adoption of skills-based hiring in the tech space –  an industry where in-demand skill sets change quickly — Regardless of industry, it’s beneficial for being able to

  • Increase the chance of a successful hire. Those who search and evaluate talent for their skills are 60% more likely to make a successful hire. 
  • Expand your talent pool. Skills-based hiring expands your talent pool as candidates without degrees or traditional career paths are explored.
  • Reduce bias and improve inclusivity. People from historically marginalized groups are less likely to have degrees. LinkedIn data also suggests that increasing transparency around skills qualifications encourages more women to apply.

Tips for Using Skills-Based Hiring 

Adopting skills-based hiring might mean revamping your hiring tools, starting with what you put in your job descriptions. Here are some tips for implementing a skills-based approach. 

Define The Skills That Drive Success 

Before ever looking at candidates, you must first consider what you are evaluating and why. Expectations should be right-sized for the role. 

“When prioritizing skills, it can help to write a success description, and then a job description. Consider what skills are needed, how they’ll be applied, and what ‘good’ looks like when this hire will apply this skill. This sets a standard to evaluate talent upon, and helps you prioritize your most critical skills. A success description might even make you rethink the level or the position altogether,” says Cassie Rosengren, CEO here at Digital Knack.

Hire someone who has most of the ability and much of the motivation. Define what skill sets the candidate should already hold, and which skill sets the candidate can learn on the job. Candidate motivation and mindset can show potential beyond one’s historical abilities. 

Shift Away from Tradition  

Highlight “responsibilities” instead of “requirements” average for more applicants per job posting.

When writing job descriptions, switch to non-gendered language (such as “they/them”). This can encourage women and other minority groups to apply, further expanding your talent pool of skilled candidates. 

Consider Skills-Based Assessments

There are all kinds of skills-based assessments. From engineers solving problems on a whiteboard to online assessment tools measuring specific aptitudes. Know why you need one and whether the assessment informs the hiring decision or determines the hiring outcome (pass/fail). In most cases, assessments should inform a hiring decision rather than dictate the hiring outcome. 

When applied with precision, a pre-employment assessment can add objectivity to the recruiting process. Companies like Criteria and The Predictive Index do this well.

Post-hire assessment tools are great too! Take Emergenetics for example, a personality assessment that reveals both thinking and behavioral preferences- two critical things to understand in a new hire.

By definition, skill assessments require clear metrics, descriptions, and categories of focus. 

Rethink How You Interview 

As skills take center stage, hiring teams are upskilling themselves to better vet candidates and set candidate expectations. Skills-based interviewing looks at what someone has done and what someone will do. This falls into Behavioral and Situational interviewing.

At a minimum, applying behavioral and situational interviewing enables proof of impact and proof of potential.

  • Behavioral interviewing introduces lines of questioning focused on a candidate’s past experience.  “Tell me about a time when ..”
  • Situational interviewing introduces lines of questioning focused on hypotheticals. “What would you do if ….”

Combining behavioral and situational tactics can look like this:

Behavioral: “Talk me through the last competitive analysis you did. What impact did this have on the company? Did the analysis uncover surprising results? 

Situational: “How would you approach a competitive analysis for a ___ company facing ___ in the market?”

Both Behavioral and Situational questions should enable a candidate to give an answer wherein you probe further for the Who / What / Why / When / Where / How. Remember to keep interviewing insights flowing two-ways. For example, articulating why this skill matters and how it will be applied at your company gives value as you gain insights. Read more about the importance of building in our article “How to Evolve Your Hiring Strategies“.

Do You Need Help Finding The Right Talent?

Effectively implementing skills-based hiring might mean breaking traditions that have been baked into your workflow. 

Want to learn more about utilizing skills-based hiring and creating a better candidate experience? Learn more about how an agency like Digital Knack can help you make confident additions to your team. 


Written by Cassie Rosengren, Co-Founder and Managing Partner