Skills-Based Job Descriptions: 5 Key Tips and 5 Key Benefits

Steven Lowenthal


Things are changing when it comes to job descriptions. There is an increasing recognition that describing job requirements in terms of degrees does not by default make a candidate more qualified for a role. A couple of trending terms reflect that approach: skills-based hiring and skills-based job descriptions. Unlike its traditional counterpart, which often focuses on qualifications and experiences, a skills-based job description focuses on the specific skills necessary for success in a role. This article takes a closer look at what is required to write skills-based job descriptions and why they are an indispensable tool for talent strategies.

Understanding Skills-Based Job Descriptions

A skills-based job description places emphasis on the skills and proficiency (degree of expertise) in those skills required to excel in a particular role, rather than on experience, education or a lengthy list of duties. These descriptions offer clarity and transparency to both applicants and hiring managers and provide a launch pad for onboarding and development when a candidate is hired. 

In the recruiting process, this approach tends to attract a broader pool of candidates, including those with non-traditional backgrounds who possess transferable skills. This shift in focus from credentials to capabilities opens doors for individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences, fostering inclusivity in the workplace.

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5 Key Tips on Crafting Effective Skills-Based Job Descriptions

  1. Identify Key Skills: Begin by identifying the skills critical for success in the role. Consult with relevant stakeholders, such as team members and department heads. Make sure that this includes those with a strategic view of the job and what it should like to align with organizational objectives.
  2. Be Specific and Clear: Clearly define each skill required, avoiding ambiguous language and include behavioral examples. For instance, instead of stating “communication skills”, specify whether written communication, verbal communication, or both are necessary for the role. 
  3. Prioritize Essential Skills: Distinguish between “must-have” and “nice-to-have” skills. Highlighting essential skills ensures that applicants understand the non-negotiable requirements for the role.
  4. Use Action-Oriented Language: Utilize action verbs to describe skills and responsibilities. This not only conveys expectations clearly but also energizes the description, making it more engaging to potential candidates. Action verbs also help to express behavioral indicators in a way that is demonstrable and observable. For instance, “Communicates with others…”.
  5. Focus on Transferable Skills : Acknowledge that candidates may possess transferable skills acquired from previous roles or experiences. Highlighting these skills broadens the talent pool and encourages candidates from diverse backgrounds to apply.

5 Key Benefits of Skills-Based Job Descriptions

  1. Improved Candidate Fit: Clear and precise descriptions enable candidates to self-assess their suitability for the role, leading to better alignment between applicants and job requirements.
  2. Increased Diversity and Inclusion: By prioritizing skills over traditional qualifications, skills-based job descriptions attract a more diverse pool of candidates, fostering a culture of inclusivity within organizations.
  3. Enhanced Recruitment Efficiency: By focusing on essential skills, recruiters can streamline the screening process and identify qualified candidates more efficiently, reducing time-to-hire and associated costs.
  4. More Effective Screening: Armed with a clear set of skills required for a job, the interview team can focus interviews on assessing those skills by asking for relevant examples and experiences where they candidate applied them. Utilizing skills to describe a job, makes it easier to generate evidence-based interview questions.
  5. Adaptability to Changing Needs: Candidates selected based on skills, especially transferable skills, will be more adaptable to changing business needs. Transferable, non-technical skills will remain relevant even when things like technology changes. 


Crafting effective skills-based job descriptions is a crucial step in modern recruitment and talent management strategies. By prioritizing skills over qualifications and duties, organizations can attract a diverse pool of candidates while ensuring clarity and alignment with organizational goals. Embracing this approach not only enhances recruitment efficiency but also fosters a more inclusive and adaptable workplace culture, poised for success in an increasingly competitive job market.

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