How to Future-Proof Workplaces with Skills-Based Hiring

By Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder
Published: Apr 2, 2024
Skills-based hiring is reshaping the future of workplaces by focusing on what candidates can actually do, rather than their educational background or previous job titles. This approach helps companies adapt to rapid changes, embrace diversity, and ensure their teams are equipped with the necessary skills for tomorrow.
A hand touching a digital interface with the word "SKILLS" at the center, connected to icons representing analytics, communication, email, and search.

Skills-based hiring is reshaping the future of workplaces by focusing on what candidates can actually do, rather than their educational background or previous job titles.

This approach helps companies adapt to rapid changes, embrace diversity, and ensure their teams are equipped with the necessary skills for tomorrow. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Skills over credentials: Focus on actual abilities rather than degrees or job titles.
  • Adapting to changes: Technological advancements and changing economies demand adaptable skill sets.
  • Diversity and fairness: Opens opportunities for a broader range of candidates, promoting innovation.
  • Implementation steps: Identify key skills, revamp job descriptions, leverage technology, and ensure fair evaluation.
  • Benefits: Access to diverse talent, increased adaptability, and cost efficiencies.

By prioritizing skills, companies can future-proof their workforce, fostering an environment ready for innovation and growth.

What is Skills-Based Hiring?

In simple terms, skills-based hiring is when companies choose new employees by looking at the skills needed for the job more than where they went to school or their work history. This approach focuses on what someone can do right now. It values skills that can be used in many different jobs and believes these skills tell us more about how well someone will do at work.

The Shift from Credentials to Capabilities

The top section of a Harvard Business Review article titled "Skills-Based Hiring Is on the Rise" by Joseph Fuller, Christina Langer, and Matt Sigelman, published on February 11, 2022, with an abstract image of a seal balancing a red ball on its nose.

Why are companies starting to hire based on skills? There are a few big reasons:

  • Technological changes: Jobs are being changed by technology, so companies want people who can learn new tech skills quickly.
  • Changing economy: Jobs today need different skills than before because of how businesses are changing. Being good at moving your skills from one area to another is important.
  • College isn’t for everyone: Not everyone finishes college, so having a degree doesn’t always mean someone will be good at their job. What you can actually do is becoming more important.
  • Fair hiring: Hiring based on skills can help make sure everyone has a fair chance at getting a job, no matter their background.

Hiring for skills helps companies build teams that can adapt and learn new things as jobs change. It’s a way to make sure businesses have the right people for what they need now and in the future.

Implementing Skills-Based Hiring

Two professional women in an office setting, one holding papers while discussing them with the other.

Adopting a skills-based hiring approach means changing how we think and what we do when hiring. Here are some steps to help organizations start hiring based on skills:

Identifying Key Skills
  • Look closely at each job to figure out the main tasks and the skills needed. Talk to people who are really good at these jobs.
  • Create a list of skills, explaining what each one means. Sort them into groups like technical skills, soft skills, or leadership skills.
  • Use data and tools to guess what skills will be important in the future based on where the business is headed. Think about what skills will be in demand.
  • Define what mix of skills, behaviors, and knowledge is needed for the best performance in different job areas.
Revamping Job Descriptions
  • Make job descriptions focus on the real skills and abilities needed for the job.
  • Talk about skills instead of things like how many years of experience someone has or specific degrees, which might not be fair.
  • Be clear about the technical knowledge, soft skills, and leadership qualities needed.
  • Use welcoming language and focus on skills to attract a wide range of applicants.
Leveraging Technology
  • Use AI to help test how well candidates can do the skills needed for the job.
  • Use data to help figure out if someone is likely to do well in the job based on their skills.
  • Let candidates show off their skills and what they’ve achieved through videos or examples of their work.
  • Use data to help compare candidates fairly, based on their skills.
Structured Interview Processes
  • Create interview guides that help you ask the right questions to see if someone has the skills needed.
  • Teach interviewers to ask the same questions to everyone, focusing on the skills needed for the job.
  • Have interviews with a team of people who look at different skills to get a full picture of what the candidate can do.
  • Use tests, simulations, and examples of work to really see how well someone can do the job.

Overcoming Challenges

Four people seated in a waiting area, appearing to be candidates awaiting job interviews, with a focus on their lower halves and showing varied postures and attire.

When we switch to hiring based on skills, we might run into some problems, like biases and not always judging people the same way. But, there are ways to fix these issues.

Addressing Implicit Biases
  • Make clear guidelines for evaluating skills to help judge candidates more fairly. This can help reduce personal biases.
  • Include people from different backgrounds in the hiring team. They can help make sure we’re not leaning towards one type of candidate over another.
  • Use practical tests, like job tasks, to see how well someone can do the work. This focuses on what they can do, not just what they seem like.
  • Teach the people hiring about biases – these are the unfair leanings we might not even know we have – and how to avoid them.
Ensuring Fair Evaluation
  • Pick skills tests that are proven to work well and really show if someone can do the job.
  • Set clear standards for what skills level we expect, so everyone is judged by the same rules.
  • Regularly check our hiring decisions to make sure they’re fair to everyone, no matter their background.
  • Start by looking at resumes without names or other personal info, so we focus only on skills and experience.
  • Use data to spot any unfair patterns in how we’re hiring, like if one group is always getting left out.

By carefully planning how we decide on skills, and making sure everyone is judged by the same fair rules, we can tackle the tricky parts of hiring for skills. The main goal is to always focus on what skills people bring to the job.

Benefits of Skills-Based Hiring

Close-up of a person's hands holding a tablet displaying a skills network diagram, symbolizing skills-based hiring or assessment.

Skills-based hiring is really good for companies that want strong and flexible teams. By looking at what people can do instead of where they went to school, businesses can find a wider range of talent, keep employees longer, spark new ideas, and save money.

Access to Diverse Talent

Hiring based on skills means you don’t just focus on degrees. This way, people with different experiences and backgrounds can show what they’re good at. Having a team with varied talents brings in fresh ideas, which can lead to better problem-solving and more creativity.

Research says teams that include different kinds of people are better at coming up with new ideas. They’re also smarter when it comes to handling various tasks. So, by hiring for skills, companies can make their teams more creative and smart.

Increased Adaptability

The work world changes fast, so being able to adapt is key. Teams that value skills over specific job titles can change direction more easily when needed. This makes it simpler to teach employees new things, filling in any gaps in what the team can do.

Using data to understand what skills your team has and what they need means you can train people in a way that really fits with your company’s goals.

Cost Efficiencies

Hiring for skills can also help save money in several ways:

  • Not focusing so much on degrees can mean you pay fairer salaries.
  • Having fewer people leave their jobs saves on the cost of finding someone new.
  • Training that’s really targeted can be more effective.

Companies that hire this way often spend less money and keep their best employees longer, as reported by Deloitte. This not only saves cash but also makes the company run better.


A handshake between two professionals in an office setting, one of them holding a folder, possibly after a successful job interview or meeting.

Hiring based on skills is really important for companies that want to be ready for the future. This means looking at what people can actually do instead of just where they went to school or their past jobs. It helps companies find more people who are a good fit, keep employees happy and with the company longer, come up with new ideas, and save money.

The future of work might be hard to predict, but one thing is sure: being able to adapt and keep learning is going to be really important. Hiring based on skills helps companies create teams that can handle changes and be ready for new challenges. For any business that wants to stay ahead, this approach is key.

Related Questions

What skills do you need to future proof your career?

To keep up in the future, work on:

  • Being able to handle changes well
  • Knowing how to use new technology
  • Solving problems creatively
  • Communicating and working with others
  • Leading and managing projects

Being ready to learn and try new things will help you stay valuable as jobs change.

What skills do employers want in the future of work?

Employers will be looking for:

  • Comfort with technology
  • Ability to understand and use data
  • Thinking clearly and solving tricky problems
  • Being creative
  • Working well with others
  • Understanding and caring about different cultures
  • Knowing about automation and AI

Having both people skills and tech skills will be important.

How you can show employers you have these skills?

To show you have the right skills:

  • Talk about times you’ve used these skills at work or in other projects.
  • Share examples of your work, like articles, videos, or project summaries.
  • Get recommendations from people you’ve worked with or for.
  • Talk about any volunteer work where you used these skills.
  • Get certificates for skills that are in demand.
  • Take online quizzes that show how good you are at certain skills.

Showing real examples and getting certificates can help prove you have the skills employers want.

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Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder

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