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Michelle Palasek has 20 years in the staffing industry working in sales and marketing operations. She currently serves as a Sr. Marketing Communications Specialist at SGA.

Everything You Needed to Know About Skills-Based Hiring


The professional world is buzzing about skills-based hiring. It’s a trend gaining momentum in the workforce, and for good reason. But what is skills-based hiring, exactly? And more importantly, is it better than experience-based hiring?

Let’s dive into the benefits of skills-based talent acquisition so you can decide whether it’s the right approach for your business.

What Is Skills-Based Hiring?

Skills-based hiring is a hiring methodology that prioritizes an individual’s specific skills and abilities over their job titles, college degrees, or work experience. Instead of focusing on where candidates have worked or for how long, it zeroes in on what they can do and how well they can do it.

Imagine you need to hire a software developer. Would you rather have a person with ten years of niche experience or a two-year developer who has a more rounded set of skills? Skills-based hiring practices help you look beyond experience to find the best candidates in the talent pool.

Skills vs. Experience in Hiring

Traditionally, hiring managers have leaned heavily on a candidate’s experience — where they’ve worked, for how long, and in what capacity. For decades, it’s been a staple of talent management. However, experience doesn’t always equate to proficiency. This is a skills-based hiring approach.

The skill-based approach shifts the focus to the tangible abilities a candidate brings to the table — their hard and soft skills. Think of it as measuring someone’s professional toolkit rather than examining their journey to acquiring it.

Is a Skills-Based Approach Better?

Skills-based hiring can be incredibly effective in roles where specific skills are more important than industry experience.

Recently, large numbers of employers in the tech and creative industries have started implementing skills-based hiring. Prioritizing specific skills helps them address the talent shortage.

However, for roles where experience provides vital context and depth, the traditional approach still holds value. That said, you don’t have to take a binary approach. Instead, you could create skills-based job descriptions that attract a wider range of candidates while still considering applicants’ experience during your hiring decisions.

Benefits of Using Skill-Focused Hiring Requirements

There are several compelling reasons to consider skills-based hiring. By prioritizing skills over experience, you can:

Discover Hidden Gems

You might find candidates who lack traditional experience but possess exceptional skills. These are often individuals who have self-taught skills, changed careers, or are fresh talents with raw, unrefined expertise.

With a little polishing and development, you can transform hidden gems into some of your most productive and dynamic employees.

Build a Diverse, Inclusive Workforce

By focusing on skills, you naturally diversify your talent pool. You’re not just looking at the same set of traditionally qualified candidates but opening doors to a wider range of individuals. That said, you’ll need to ensure your skills assessments are free from biases to broaden your horizons and give candidates a fair chance.

Predict Performance

Skills-based hiring can be a better predictor of future job performance. After all, knowing that a candidate can perform the tasks required is more reassuring than assuming they can based on past job titles. You can gauge someone’s skills using quantifiable data and ensure they can fulfill their work responsibilities.

Reduce Bias

The skills-based hiring approach helps reduce unconscious bias. When you focus on what candidates can do rather than what school they attended or where they worked, you can make more objective decisions. These insights lead to smarter hiring while simultaneously protecting your brand reputation.

Potential Drawbacks of Skills-Based Hiring

Like any methodology, skills-based hiring isn’t without its drawbacks. Some potential barriers to adopting this process include:

Time and Resource Constraints

Assessing skills can be more time-consuming than reviewing resumes. You might need to conduct practical tests, portfolio reviews, or detailed interviews to gauge a candidate’s abilities.

Fortunately, you can offset some of these challenges by offering virtual testing opportunities. Still, setting up such infrastructure may be tedious and costly, which represents yet another barrier to skills-based hiring.

A Lack of Focus on Experience Benefits

Experience isn’t just about hard skills. It encompasses learning from past mistakes, understanding industry nuances, and having a network of contacts– aspects that skills assessments might overlook.

Additionally, experience can teach and sharpen soft skills like communication and emotional intelligence. While younger or raw candidates can also excel in these areas, experienced applicants have had more opportunities to use their soft skills.

A Sharp Learning Curve

For candidates with the right skills but less experience, there might be a longer adaptation period as they learn the nuances of a new work environment or industry. But if an applicant has the skills you are looking for, helping them through this learning curve is a worthwhile investment.

On that note, make sure you have a comprehensive and scalable onboarding process to support your skills-based hiring strategy.

How to Adopt a Skills-Based Hiring Strategy

If you want to start prioritizing skills versus experience in hiring, there are a few ways to go about it. The more complex approach involves doing everything in-house. This road is tedious, costly, and potentially risky.

To handle everything internally, you’ll need to develop a skill assessment for each role/skill set for which you want to evaluate candidates. However, if your skill assessment is biased or otherwise unfair, you could face lawsuits and other penalties.

Alternatively, you could partner with a skill assessment provider and purchase expertly designed assessments. This is a more cost-effective solution, but you’ll still have to oversee most of the hiring process. The third and often most pragmatic approach involves partnering with a talent solutions firm. Such a firm can handle everything from skills and experience evaluations to onboarding and contractor management. This approach ensures you get top talent fast.

Should You Start Using Skills-Based Hiring?

If you operate in a tech-centric or creative field, then you should definitely consider using skills-based hiring strategies. However, that does not mean you should disregard the importance of education or experience. Instead, prioritize skills and use education and experience as points of differentiation. By considering all facets of an employee’s abilities and talent, you can gain a more holistic view of their fit for your company.