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Skill-Based Hiring and Benefits

Skill-based hiring and the benefits it can bring to your talent strategy.

In this article we’ll take a look at what skill based hiring is, how it helps both candidates and you as an employer, and five ways you can integrate the practice into your recruitment process.

What is skill-based hiring?

While you might think that your current hiring process of sifting through CV’s and picking out the most qualified candidates is a skill-based approach, research shows that CV’s are a relatively poor way of assessing somebody’s competency for a job.

Sometime around the 2000’s, many company’s began adding degree-level requirements for roles that previously did not require them. This shift, often referred to as ‘degree inflation’ – proved a number of things – firstly, that this practice is not long-term sustainable and was only a viable hiring model during a job-led market as was the case during the recession of the time.

However, with shifting climates and candidate-led markets, this outdated approach has proven to alienate potential talent, and provide little in the way of benefits to the talent acquisition strategies and competing companies vying for human resources.

Enter the shift towards skill-based hiring

Skill-based hiring is the practice of screening applicants for job specific skills and competencies rather than arbitrary preconception of qualifications or experience we think people will need.

The benefits are numerous – notably the practice fosters more inclusive recruitment and ensures a more level playing field for candidates form diverse backgrounds who may not have had the opportunities afforded to people from more privileged backgrounds.

It also increases the quality of hires as you are directly testing a candidates ability to perform the role you are trying to fill.

Massively increased talent pool

By utilising skill-based hiring you cast a much wider net for applicants and avoid alienating people who don’t meet a rigid (and often outdated) person spec and instead attract fresh talent and ideas who despite not working in the specific role your hiring for – may just be the perfect person for the job – these people have been referred to as ‘STARs’ or ‘Hidden workers’.

To fully harness the power of skill-based hiring you need to look at a few things.

First – minimise bias and level the playing field

Firstly, this means anonymising applications to hiring managers. This is often done at a HR level or with application form software that will not allow hiring managers to see information like a candidate’s name, age, or any information contained that might give this away. This means that people will be judged solely on the information they provide and not their background.

Next – work sample questions

The classic approach of reading a CV, picking out the parts that stand out, and shortlisting for interviews based on this is a clumsy and inaccurate method of assessing a candidate’s real-life competencies for a role.

Integrating work sample questions into the hiring process will massively improve your ability to gauge how well somebody will perform in a role accurately. For example, instead of meaningless questions such as ‘can you tell us about a time you overcame adversity in the workplace?’  ask “If you were a part of X team, and they were asked to achieve Y result, what steps would you take to ensure success?”

Questions like this assess true potential. Maybe their voice wasn’t heard or valued in a previous role and it’s impossible for them to list their achievements or prove a track record of promotion. This could be due to internal politics or bias’ within their previous companies, and it doesn’t mean they don’t have great ideas.

You can go a step further than this in final interviews and ask people to complete small parts or tasks from the job they will be doing, this will provide a much clearer picture of who has the right soft skills and attitudes to really excel in the role.

Finally – structure an interview panel

It’s important to have a consistent system in place to utilise this greater insight to enable hiring managers to make sound decisions. Consider having a scoring system in place for how candidates perform at these questions or tasks – such as a 1-5 system for each task and then combining these to form an aggregate score for each candidate. The results may surprise you.

Time has also proven that multiple people being part of the final decision-making process ensures fairer, more inclusive recruitment, as well as more quality, hires. The magic number seems to be three and this will ensure that there is a built-in oversight of any individual hiring manager’s personal bias’.


As global leaders in talent and employment strategy, EWS’s expert consultants can help you implement these practices and create a long-term sustainable recruitment and employment process that fosters growth, ensures inclusivity, and allows for a dynamic skillset within your workforce to compete on the world stage.

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