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How to Write a Skills-Based Job Description


In this tight labor market, there is more competition than ever to hire top talent. That’s one reason to shift from traditional hiring practices, like degree-based hiring, to skills-based hiring.

Skills-based hiring involves using specific skills and competencies as the requirements for the job rather than a college degree. It both widens the talent pool and narrows the focus by giving you more clarity into what you actually need and want from your organization's next great hire.

As its name implies, skills-based hiring focuses on a candidate’s skills. It takes benchmarks like a four-year degree or a certain number of years of experience out of the equation, replaced by the skills and competencies learned while in the classroom or on the job.

It opens up the playing field to people without four-year degrees, those with gaps in their employment history because they have hit the pause button in their careers for a variety of reasons, and candidates whose work experience may not fit your mold.

But it's vital for your company that those skills are verified. A claim on a resume — proficiency in Adobe or Excel, for example — is just that, a claim. It's self reported. How do you know it's true? One powerful tool in skills-based hiring are digital credentials, badges that prove achievement, accomplishment, and learning in the skills your organization needs. When a hiring manager finds digital credentials on an applicant's resume, it's an easy way to vet the fact that the applicant actually has the skills they are identifying.

By focusing on skills rather than on a candidate’s on-paper background, you can reduce your recruiting costs, time-to-hire and the myriad expenses that come with having open positions. It also allows you to hone and sharpen your own focus on exactly what skills are necessary for each position, resulting in stronger, better hires.

How to write a skills-based job description

In the past, recruiters and hiring managers have used the requirement of a college degree to weed out candidates in their pool of applicants. For some jobs, degrees must be required, but a degree alone is no guarantee your candidate will have the hard and soft skills necessary to succeed in the job. The first step in shifting your hiring practices toward a skills-based approach is crafting a job description. Here are some ways to begin doing that.

  • Think about the day-to-day processes, procedures and responsibilities of the position you’re looking to fill.
  • Talk with your star performers and managers about the skills and competencies necessary to be successful in the job.
  • List the hard skills necessary to perform the job duties successfully. Hard skills are easily measurable. They can be thought of as the technical abilities a candidate has learned either in the classroom or through on-the-job training. They’re things like proficiency in Adobe, Photoshop, Excel or other applications; math skills; licenses or other professional credentials that have been earned; and abilities like operating machinery. Indicate your preference for digital credentials or badges to verify the applicant truly has learned those skills.
  • List the soft skills necessary to do the job. These are oftentimes overlooked in a traditional hiring model but are vital to many positions. Soft skills include interpersonal skills, creativity, teamwork, communication skills, problem solving and traits that make up who the candidate is as a person.
  • Think about which of those skills are required on day one of the jobs, and which may be acquired through on-the-job training.
  • Look at the current job description you're using, and deconstruct it, breaking it down into the skills required.
  • Make sure to include information about your company culture, a general job description and any other important information job seekers need to know.

After going through this process, you'll have a clearer, more focused understanding of the skills required of each position in your organization. And that will lead you to make, stronger, better hires.