Skills-Based Hiring: Unlocking Potential in the Age of Agility

In today’s dynamic business landscape, the traditional hiring playbook is undergoing a transformation. Employers are increasingly recognizing that degrees and job titles alone don’t necessarily predict success.

Instead, they’re turning their attention to skills—the practical abilities that candidates bring to the table. Even LinkedIn is re-evaluating the power of skills on their platform and how they bring a more holistic view of what an individual can bring to his/her job.

I am a perfect example. My degrees are in Theatre. My job experience includes sales, coaching, consulting and running companies and I have a variety of certificates and credentials that come from outside academia. I am a nightmare to a hiring platform that is only searching keywords.

Moreover, I would never get a look as a candidate because the platforms don’t know what to do with someone like me. The reality is—more and more of your job candidates look like me. They have a patchwork of education, credentials and experience, and the legacy hiring approach keeps you from seeing fantastic candidates who have much to offer your organization.

How is skills-based hiring reshaping workforce dynamics?

"Skills-based hiring is not about tossing out academic credentials, but rather, understanding that employees have so much more to offer than only what they learned in academia." 
The Rise of Skills-Based Hiring

What Are Innately Human Skills?
CEOs consistently emphasize the importance of certain innately human skills. These coveted abilities include:

  1. Problem Solving – The capacity to analyze complex issues and devise effective solutions.
  2. Critical Thinking – The ability to evaluate information objectively and make informed decisions.
  3. Collaboration – Working seamlessly with others to achieve common goals.
  4. Networking – Building meaningful connections within and beyond the organization.
  5. Leadership – Guiding teams toward success.

But these skills are notoriously difficult to train and even harder to find – you won’t find them in business schools. Enter skills-based hiring—a paradigm shift that prioritizes competencies over credentials.

Challenges and Opportunities

Can Traditional Hiring Methods Keep Up?
The traditional hiring process often falls short in identifying candidates with essential attributes. Job descriptions based on outdated templates or only searching keywords may miss out on hidden gems—individuals with the right skills but perhaps lacking formal qualifications.

1. Benefits of Skills-Based Hiring

  • Diverse Talent Pool: By focusing on skills, organizations attract a wider range of applicants, including those from non-traditional backgrounds.
  • Improved Retention: When employees are hired based on skills alignment, they tend to stay longer and contribute more effectively.
  • Better Job Opportunities: Skills-based hiring creates pathways for workers to upskill and transition into higher-wage roles.

Real-Life Examples
1. Boeing, Walmart, and IBM

  • These industry giants have pledged to implement skills-based practices. They’ve removed degree requirements from certain job postings. By doing so, they tap into a broader talent pool and foster agility in their workforce.

2. State of Maryland

  • In May 2022, Maryland announced that it would no longer require degrees for almost 50% of its positions. This move opens up thousands of jobs—from healthcare to engineering—to a wider range of applicants.

3. Medium-Sized Healthcare Provider

  • A case study conducted by the Rework America Alliance showcased how this provider created a skills-based talent solution. By focusing on skills rather than traditional credentials, they addressed scarcity and found the right applicants.
Implementing Skills-Based Hiring
Steps to Embrace Skills-Based Hiring

1. Rethink Job Descriptions

  • Move away from rigid templates. Instead, focus on the skills required for success in a specific role. If this is your first foray into skills-based hiring, use LinkedIn skills for inspiration.
  • Use clear language that resonates with potential candidates. As an employer, you likely get frustrated when resumes only show job activities rather than accomplishments. Make the same adjustment to your job postings. Clarity about what success looks like will draw quality candidates.

2. Assess Skills Actively

  • Look beyond resumes and transcripts. Incorporate skills assessments, simulations, or challenges during the hiring process.

3. Train Hiring Managers

  • Equip hiring managers with the tools to evaluate skills effectively.
  • Encourage them to ask behavioral questions related to competencies.

Skills-based hiring is not about tossing out academic credentials, but rather, understanding that employees have so much more to offer than only what they learned in academia. And skills-based hiring isn’t just a trend; it’s a strategic shift toward a more agile workforce. 

Whether you are a CEO, a hiring manager, or an aspiring professional, embracing skills-based approaches is key to thriving in the age of AI and rapid change. Let’s unlock potential, one skill at a time.

McKinsey: Taking a skills-based approach to building the future workforce: Skillful: Skills-Based Hiring Toolkit (Massachusetts Government): The Ultimate Guide to Skills-based Hiring (Beamery)


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Renowned business consultant and executive coach, Jane Gentry shares her expertise on expanding your business’ present capabilities while establishing a legacy of future value. See how the leading voice in leadership and sales can take your team to the next level.

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