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How to Write a Skills-Based Job Description

woman in office gathering job description skills to write a skills-based job description

In today’s tight labor market, there’s more competition than ever to hire top talent. And as recruiters and hiring managers are squeezed to sift through a large volume of applicants to find the most qualified candidate, adding efficiency to the talent sourcing process is critical.

That’s reason alone to shift from traditional hiring practices, like degree-based hiring, to the more equitable and data-based approach of skills-based hiring.

Lead With Skills When Creating a Job Description

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 can reduce bias in the hiring process in part by opening up the playing field to people without four-year degrees, those with gaps in their employment history because they’ve hit the pause button in their careers for a variety of reasons, and candidates whose work experience may not fit your mold.

When you’re creating job descriptions to fill open positions, focus first on the skills a candidate will need to possess in order to be successful in the role.

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.

infographic with text "5 Steps for Writing a Skills-Based Job Description and identifying job description skills"

5 Steps for Writing 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 five steps you can take to begin doing that.

1. Deconstruct the role and the current job description

When creating a skills-based job description, it’s helpful to think about the day-to-day processes, procedures, and responsibilities of the position you’re looking to fill. You may already have a job description that’s been created for the role, and if you do, you should deconstruct it, breaking it down into the skills required.

2. Gather insights from managers and top performers

No one will understand the role and requirements for success better than the direct manager of the position you’re looking to fill, and top performers who have held the same position or a similar one. Tap this audience for insights about the skills and competencies necessary to be successful in the job as you’re identifying the job description skills.

Check the verified skills top performers have listed on their resume or digital credential profile, and use those as a starting point.

3. Determine the hard skills and soft skills needed

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.

Next, list the soft skills necessary to do the job. These are oftentimes overlooked in a traditional hiring model but are vital to most positions. Soft skills include interpersonal skills, creativity, teamwork, communication skills, problem solving, and traits that make up who the candidate is as a person.

4. Consider how the role may evolve in the future

Take the skills you identified above, and think about which are required on day one of the job, and which may be acquired through on-the-job upskilling and reskilling. It can also be helpful to think about the ways digital transformation and industry disruption might affect the role in the next several years, and which new skills will be needed to combat that.

Your organization’s HR or Strategic Workforce Planning team may have access to predictive analytics tools that can help give you a glimpse into the future as you develop your skills based job description.

5. Take into account company culture and personality fit

Long-term job performance will ultimately be impacted by several key factors including skillset, personality fit, and individual motivation and values. Be sure to include in the job description information about your company culture and the individual motivators that would increase the likelihood of success for a hire in a particular role.

Once you’ve narrowed your candidate pool down—either manually or with an AI-powered hiring tool—you should use a combination of interview questions and validated assessments to identify the candidate most likely to perform well on the job.

The Importance of Verified Skills

As you engage in the candidate sourcing and screening process, remember the importance of verified skills. A qualified candidate will not only have most or all of the skills you’ve listed as required in your job description, but those skills should also be verifiable.

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? Third-party validated digital credentials are a secure way to prove achievement, accomplishment, and learning in the skills your organization needs.

When a recruiter or 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’re identifying.

Put Skills at the Forefront of Your Hiring Process

After going through the process of identifying job description skills, you'll have a clearer, more focused understanding of the skills required for each position in your organization. That information can help you identify skills gaps, and lead you to make stronger, better hires.

Talent Match helps talent acquisition teams and hiring managers find the most qualified job candidates by using AI to put skills and verifiable credentials at the forefront of the hiring process. Learn more by requesting a demo today.