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Skills-based hiring to build competent diverse teams

Skills-based hiring assesses talent based on skills, rather than qualifications, and can help you build competent and diverse teams.

September 29, 2020
Yuma Heymans
September 7, 2022

Skills-based hiring is one of the most important recruitment trends of the last few years. It assesses talent based on skills, rather than qualifications like education and certificates.

To do a job in today’s world, in many cases an educational background is not an absolute necessity.

Learning skills is available to anyone nowadays, since the internet has found its way to almost any individual on the planet.

To become competent in a role, you could have learned the required skills anywhere you wanted, making diplomas and learning through institutions optional rather than required.

Since education is very much dependent on where you live and your socioeconomic, it is also not contributing to building diverse teams.

By requiring an educational degree for your job, you leave out a big part of the population who can not afford to go to university or for whom it’s just not the most obvious path to follow.

With skills-based hiring, candidates need to be able to show that they master the right skills, and most skills are to be acquired with just a laptop, internet connection and a drive to learn.

The remote working trend, need for diverse teams and increased accessibility to online learning content by talent drive the skills based hiring trend.

Benefits of skills based hiring:

  • Bigger talent pool: tap into less competitive talent pools with talent who are disqualified by other companies
  • More diversity: build more diverse teams because skills are less associate with cultural and socioeconomic factors
  • Competent teams: minimize disappointment with ‘qualified’ but incompetent employees
  • Increase team coherence: increase respect for each other within your teams by focussing on skills that everybody can learn instead of education which can be seen as a privilege only available to some

A good example of where skills-based hiring has been proven very successful is in hiring software engineers.

Where companies with a traditional hiring approach usually focus on finding engineers with certain qualifications (education, certification, experience years), skills-based hiring companies focus on finding the engineer with exactly the right technology skills.

44% of developers are self-taught, so most of the skills they acquire are most likely learned somewhere else than school.

How to do skills-based hiring

Shifting to skills-based hiring is not hard. It’s more about a mindset shift than about a total transformation of your recruitment processes. Hiring managers and recruiters need to start thinking in terms of ability rather than certificates.

Next to the mindset shift, there are also some practical steps you can take to move to skills-based hiring.

1. Review job requirements and job description

Job descriptions can be full of requirements that miss the point and cause bias in your hiring decisions. With the right objective perspective on job descriptions you can reduce one sidedness and address a larger group of people.

By analysing your job description you can get a good idea if what you are communicating matches what you are looking for.

These are your quick wins:

1. Review relevancy of mentioned skills

Review with the hiring manager if the required and optional skills in the job description are relevant to be successful in the job. If they’re not, consider deleting them from the job description. If there are skills that are relevant but not mentioned, include them. This step sounds simple but is usually neglected.

2. Compare required skills with available talent

The skills that you ask for in your job description have to be realistic. To get a good understanding of how realistic these requirements are, you need to know what de supply of talent is that has these skills.

Here are two examples of tools you can use to analyse your job description for how the required skills match available talent:

HeroHunt.ai: analyses your job description for tech skills and matches the available talent pool to it with profiles from LinkedIn, GitHub, Stack Overflow

GlossaryTech: analyses your job for tech keywords, highlights them and indicates what they mean

3. Analyse for language

The language people use is very dependent on their background and writing style. Since you want to appeal to a broad audience, it’s essential to review if the type of language that is used in the job description is not biased towards one single group of candidates.

Text analysis tools indicate how your text sounds to your audience: it might be for example very masculine, using fixed mindset language or full of bureaucratic language.

Here’s an example of a job text analysis tool:

Textio: analyses your job description and indicates how it sounds to your audience

2. Searching for talent

When you source directly for talent you can build your search in such a way that it’s skills-based rather than qualifications based.

What a qualifications search is focussed on:

Focussed on: experience and education


  • Scala developer 
  • Germany
  • Required: AWS NoSQL RESTful
  • University degree in computer science
  • 3 - 5 years experience in scala development

What a skills search is focussed on:

Focussed on: hard or tech skills and optionally soft skills

Example search:

  • Scala developer
  • Germany
  • Required: AWS NoSQL RESTful
  • Optional: API, Apollo, Architecture, “Data Science”, GraphQL, Java, Kotlin, Kubernetes

3. Assessing skills

When you have found the candidates with the right profiles, you want to know what the actual level is of the skills mentioned by the candidate.

Do they master the skill or did they just begin learning it?

Some candidates put interests on their profiles as if they are skills, but they don’t necessarily have mastered those skills, they might be still learning about them and just starting to work with them.

For every role there are different ways you can assess if the candidate has proven to master the skill.

Some examples:

For engineers you can look at the software products they have built before and the code that they have shared on GitHub and the questions they have answered on Stack Overflow. You can also use a code assessment tool like CodeSignal to test for code skills.

For designers you can look at their portfolio of designs. Can they hand over some examples of designs they have made and show that it was them who made the design.

For digital marketers you can look at the marketing channels they have built and run, digital marketing techniques they have used and content they have created and posted.

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