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Everything you need to know about skills-based recruitment

In recent years, we have seen a massive increase in the ratio of transferable skills vs. technical skills requested by employers.

Of the top ten skills requested through Clu in the past year, every single one was a transferable or soft skill. Technical skills like python, data analysis and SQL are still in the top 20, but these have shifted further down the "most wanted" list.

Knowing how to articulate and communicate your skills is more important to employers than ever, which can come as a surprise to those who have banked on their highly technical resumes to land jobs previously.

Companies want transferable skills, but they’ve discovered that it’s not so easy to assess these skills from a CV. Here are some of our top tips for getting better at recruiting for skills in the hiring process.

Focus on a candidate's ability, not their background

If I had a penny for every time we've seen "Degree preferred" on a job ad. But just as common is, when asked about what skills a candidate with a degree is expected to have that a candidate without a degree isn't, a hiring manager not being able to specify the substance of that requirement.

Using the "Degree preferred" line in job descriptions leaves other incredible candidates feeling that they shouldn't apply. As Clu, we look for communicative and creative problem solvers as a primary need. Most other things can be taught, but one thing is for certain. The humility to be curious and continually driven to learn more over indexes in communities without degrees. If you go with abilities, skills and core values, you'll win more of the time.

Use behavioural interview questions

In a behavioural interview, you will want to know how the job seeker will perform in different circumstances. Bruce Tulgan, the author of Bridging the Soft Skills Gap: How to Teach the Missing Basics to Today’s Young Talent, suggests employers learn how to identify transferable skills by asking job seekers problem-solving questions. For example:

  • Tell us a story about a time you solved a problem at work.

  • Tell us a story about a conflict you had with another employee at work.

  • Can you tell us about a time when you disagreed with your manager’s directions or priorities? How did you respond?

  • Talk me through a time when you made a mistake or were asked to go back and make corrections. How did you handle it?

The key to learning how to identify transferable skills with behavioural questions is to avoid leading questions that may elicit canned or less-than-genuine responses, eg "What are you best at?", "What is your leadership style?". You generally want to ask questions that prompt self-reflection and candid responses that are situational, not theoretical.

Be consistent and be open-minded

So often in the hiring process, we start with great intention of being more inclusive and skills-based but then when push comes to shove, we see Employers ditch all logic and reason and resort to the practices that have historically led to 80% of people not having the right skills for their jobs.

To properly evaluate talent in an unbiased and skills-based way, hiring managers and business leaders must understand the core competencies required for a role and stick to this as the assessment method throughout the hiring process. Creating scorecards and ensuring scoring is conducted independently reduces bias. You can then determine whether a candidate has the aptitude, knowledge, transferable skills and, most importantly, a willingness to learn.

Identify transferable skills through observation

Of course, beyond a candidate’s past experiences, your interview itself is a good mechanism to investigate their transferable skills.

While it’s important to keep in mind that the way someone shows up in an interview is not directly linked to how they show up at work, a candidate with good skills will nonetheless exhibit certain behaviours during your interview. Keep an eye out for:

  • Organisation: One of the most important skills in handling any task is organisation. Has the candidate prepared for the interview, do they show up on time? These are all small indicators of how someone commits to themselves, which is a great indicator of how they'll commit to a team.

  • Curiosity: Above all else, we believe this is the juice of a star employee. A candidate may not know everything about the subject of a role, but do they want to know everything about it? Do they have questions for you? Curiosity should not be confused with enthusiasm because not all candidates are extroverts. But if someone is creative and curious at heart, they will be a much more sustainable asset to your organisation than someone who knows a lot now with no humility to learn more and evolve with time.

  • Communication: It's important to be aware of perception bias when analysing communication skills. Just because someone doesn't have perfect English or doesn't make consistent eye contact, it doesn't mean they aren't good at communicating. Pay attention to how people listen to what you ask, and how they relay information back to you. Are they just trying to say what they want to say, or are they having a conversation with you? These are really strong indicators of a good team worker and relationship builder.

Benefits of skills-based hiring

Skill-based hiring aims to replicate, as closely as possible, the experience of working in the actual role the candidate will be hired for. For example, a marketer may be asked to present a strategy proposal. A UX designer might be asked to review a user flow within a product. A sales representative might be asked to pitch a product to a panel.

For new hires, skill-based hiring provides the opportunity to try the role on for size. Candidates can then self-select out of the hiring process if they feel they aren’t a good fit. Inevitably, the candidate who is hired is not only a better fit for the role — they’re also excited to take on the day-to-day responsibilities and grow with the company.

More diverse candidates hired via skill-based hiring also tend to stay longer. LinkedIn found that employees without a traditional four-year degree stay at companies 34% longer than those with such a degree.

Candidates, too, enjoy the opportunity to show their skills. Recruiting teams can improve candidate retention by adding a skill assessment to the hiring process. At Clu, we’ve found that candidates are more than eager to showcase their skills. Companies that use our platform experience up to 60% more application acceptances, which is among the highest engagement rates in the industry.


At Clu, we're reinventing how job seekers find jobs by helping Employers get great at skills-based hiring. We are the most efficient and simple way to gain traction with underutilised talent communities at scale. Find out more by getting in touch with us. We'd love to hear from you.

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