Skills-based hiring

Read time: 6 minutes


Can the applicant do the job?

Skills-based hiring is a commonsense way to evaluate job candidates. Recruiters and hiring managers focus on what people can do: the skills, capabilities, and talent they can bring to the job. You can use this approach to:


  • Learn who has the skills you need. You’ll focus on measuring candidates’ abilities and won’t have to rely on stand-ins such as their education or even their certifications. Now you’ll know which skills someone has and which ones they may need to learn.
  • Identify the most qualified applicants. Questions, work samples, and job simulations allow you to measure people on the hard skills and soft skills they’ll use every day. You won’t have to rely on proxies, such as their formal education, job history, and what they’ve written in their resume and application form.
  • Get more applicants. You’ll find and attract people from a wider range of backgrounds. Instead of screening people out for unimportant reasons, you’ll draw people in because they have the abilities needed to succeed in the job. For example, you probably know lots of people who work in a job that has little or nothing to do with their college degree.
  • Increase diversity. Your pipeline will include more candidates from underrepresented groups by shifting the focus away from their formal education and the jobs they’ve worked. Does it really matter if they taught themselves a skill instead of learning it in class?
  • Improve retention and productivity. By hiring people who can do the job, you’ll reduce early turnover and the recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training costs that go with it. You’ll also increase initial productivity, which often translates to higher long-term productivity.


Your first step to using skills-based hiring is to decide which skills people need for the job, including which ones they need on day one and which ones they can learn later. Hiring managers and coworkers can help you understand which skills matter.


Use the list to determine how you’ll measure high-priority skills. It may make sense to combine an employment test, a job simulation, a case study, or some other tools to help applicants show you their skills. This approach also gives people a better understanding of the job: some will become more committed to your company and some will choose to remove themselves from consideration.


Learn more about skills-based hiring: