9 job roles that are ideal for skills-based hiring

9 roles that are ideal for skills-based hiring
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As a hiring manager, you might be familiar with skills-based hiring – hiring talent based on a candidate’s skills and expertise over their degree, resume, or connections. 

But you might not know exactly which job roles skills-based hiring works best for or what the challenges are when hiring for each position.  

If so, you’re not alone.

Some two-thirds of Americans don’t have a college education, and 1.4 million jobs that don’t require a degree could open up to them in the next five years. [1] This means HR and hiring managers everywhere need to reset their markers for candidate success.

And what better way to start than by digging into the different roles out there and their implications for skills-based hiring? 

In this article, we’ll examine why skills-based hiring is on the rise and which roles it’s suitable for. This will enable you to hire quality candidates based on your understanding of their acquired experience and skill sets. 

Specifically, we’ll look at: 

  • How skills-based hiring works when recruiting for different roles

  • Skills gaps, including whether and how skills-based hiring is used to fill the role

  • The prevalence of skills testing for each position and the benefits of using it

  • The challenges associated with using skills-based hiring for certain roles 

  • Role-specific tests and how to apply them

Where is skills-based hiring on the rise?

In our 2023 State of Skills-Based Hiring report, we found that skills-based hiring is particularly popular in remote and hybrid working environments.  The total percentage of remote and hybrid companies using skills-based hiring in 2023 is 64% and 78%, while in-person companies stand at 57%.

It’s also taken off in larger corporations and the tech sector owing to the sheer volume of applicants and the specific technical skill requirements. 

Understandably, it’s less common in industries that require specific credentials apart from a traditional college degree, such as state-licensing requirements, health-specific certifications, or certain measurable skills in fields like medicine, law, and education. 

But skills-based hiring is quickly gaining ground: A staggering 79% of HR professionals claim that candidate scores on skills assessments are equally as or more important than traditional criteria in hiring decisions. 

By focusing on position-applicant alignment, you can hire candidates who are a better fit for their roles, which means they’ll be better placed to succeed.

In fact, 78% of HR professionals say the quality of their organization’s hires has improved thanks to their use of assessments. And you get a competitive advantage by reducing employee turnover while improving employee happiness, diversity, and productivity.

The benefit of skills-based hiring is that it’s likely to result in improved recruitment processes regardless of sector or industry. However, it is particularly useful for medium to large businesses that typically recruit a number of new candidates annually. This approach can speed up the hiring process for organizations that adopt it, as well as identify talented individuals who may have otherwise been passed over in favor of candidates who appear to have better education or work experience on paper.

Natasha Maddock, the co-founder of Events Made Simple.

Skills-based hiring quote Natasha Maddock

To better understand how to apply skills-based hiring across roles – and its benefits – let’s take a look at some positions that work well with skills-based hiring.

9 job roles that are suitable for skills-based hiring

When it comes to skills-based hiring, it’s common for organizations to practice “skills ontology.” This refers to understanding the skills a candidate would need for a specific role and measuring the relationships between those skills. This helps create a common language or taxonomy for skills across various roles or platforms. 

That way, you can start building a strong vocabulary and understanding of skills across various types of employment – and hire better, more diverse candidates. 

9 roles that are suitable for skills-based hiring

1. Roles requiring high-volume hiring 

High-volume hiring for roles like call center staff and other low-complexity jobs often value skills over how well a candidate fits the job description. Employers face several challenges with high-volume hiring:

1. Managing a large number of applications: Sifting through a high volume of resumes and applications can be overwhelming and time-consuming.

2. Ensuring a quality candidate experience: Providing a positive and engaging experience for a large pool of candidates can be difficult, especially while trying to process applications quickly.

3. Maintaining consistency: Ensuring a fair and consistent assessment process for all candidates can be challenging when dealing with high volumes.

4. Identifying the right skills: Effectively assessing and identifying the necessary skills and competencies for the role from a large pool of candidates.

5. Balancing speed and quality: Finding a balance between quickly filling positions and ensuring the quality of hires is a significant challenge.

6. Reducing turnover: High-volume roles often have higher turnover rates, so finding candidates who are likely to stay long-term is important.

7. Cultural fit: Ensuring that candidates positively add to the company culture and team dynamics can be tricky in a high-volume hiring scenario.

These challenges require strategic planning, efficient screening processes, and often the use of technology and tools to streamline the hiring process, such as pre-employment testing and assessments.

Specific jobs within high-volume hiring roles include:

  1. Call center staff: These roles involve handling customer inquiries, complaints, and support requests over the phone.

  2. Healthcare workers: These roles have a high staff turnover, due to the demanding nature of the job, pay issues, and shift patterns. These jobs involve helping care for patients in healthcare and senior care facilities, and involve patient care techniques, providing basic life support and first-aid, cleaning, and assisting in activities of daily living.

These roles often require skills assessments focused on communication, customer service, adaptability, and basic technical abilities relevant to the specific job.

For these roles, it's useful to use tests such as:

Call Center Representative

Customer Service

Health Care Aide

Understanding Instructions

Communication

Basic Math Calculations

Or you could ask the candidate to perform a take-home assessment that mirrors the demands of the job itself. For example, ask a call center representative to do a mock call, and rate their performance based on your requirements or other top-performing representatives at your company. 

But how does skills-based hiring work across more technical roles? Let’s find out. 

2. Technical roles 

Tech companies are at the forefront of the shift to skills-based hiring, focusing on skills assessments for hard skills like computer programming and soft skills like critical thinking. Companies like HubSpot (through HubSpot Academy) have also made a push for developing candidates’ micro-credentials, which recognize specific or small skills in a digital booklet. 

Skill-based hiring is the most popular in the IT and hi-tech sectors. Most universities teach students outdated solutions instead of new technologies, so a college degree says little about technical skills. Therefore, companies from those industries look for people with particular skills rather than certifications. Karolina Kijowska, the head of people at PhotoAi.

Technical roles include:

  • Software developer: Responsible for designing, coding, and testing software applications.

  • Data scientist: Specializes in analyzing and interpreting complex digital data to assist in decision-making.

  • Network engineer: Manages and maintains a company's computer networks.

  • Cybersecurity analyst: Protects systems against cyber threats.

  • Database administrator: Manages and maintains a secure and efficient database environment.

  • DevOps engineer: Integrates software development and IT operations for faster, more reliable delivery of applications.

  • Web developer: Builds and maintains websites and web applications.

The biggest challenge when using skills-based hiring for technical jobs is a lack of skilled talent. So by removing degree requirements, you can hone in on the technical, hard, soft, and transferable skills they need instead. Some of the ways skills-based hiring can help you hire for technical roles includes:

  • Validating technical expertise: Tests can assess specific technical skills and knowledge, ensuring candidates are proficient in the technologies relevant to the role.

  • Evaluating problem-solving ability: Technical roles often require strong analytical and problem-solving skills, which can be evaluated through assessments.

  • Identifying aptitude for continuous learning: Technology fields evolve rapidly; assessments can help gauge a candidate's ability to learn and adapt to new tools and technologies.

  • Assessing soft skills: Beyond technical capabilities, it's important to evaluate communication, teamwork, and other soft skills crucial for effective collaboration in technical environments.

To better differentiate candidates from each other, here are some skills tests you can apply within your technical hiring process: 

Applying these tests can help you hire talent that stands out in terms of technical skills and ability. You can also learn more about what motivates them and how they make decisions and process information. 

Now, let’s examine how to use skills-based hiring to fill sales and marketing roles. 

3. Sales and marketing roles 

Sales and marketing professionals are in high demand. Here are a few examples of sales and marketing roles:

  • Sales representative: Responsible for selling products or services to customers and maintaining client relationships.

  • Account manager: Manages a portfolio of client accounts and ensures customer satisfaction.

  • Marketing manager: Oversees marketing campaigns and strategies to promote a brand or product.

  • Business development manager: Focuses on creating strategic relationships and partnerships to drive business growth.

  • Digital marketing specialist: Implements online marketing strategies including social media, SEO, and email marketing.

  • Brand manager: Develops and maintains the brand identity and image of a product or company.

  • Sales director: Leads the sales team and develops sales strategies and objectives.

  • SEO specialist: Optimizes websites to increase visibility and ranking on search engines.

  • Content marketing specialist: Creates and manages engaging content across various platforms to attract and retain customers.

Because of the high demand for skilled workers, skills-based hiring has become increasingly popular for these roles, with an emphasis on testing both hard and soft skills. 

Some skills-based tests that mirror the demands of these roles include the following: 

Despite many marketing companies using skills-based hiring, it’s still common to see resumes or educational requirements on job listings for these occupations because choosing appropriate skills tests used to be a challenge. 

As David Ciccarelli, the chief executive officer of Voices.com, explains:

“The biggest challenge is setting up scenarios for each new role. For instance, we had a digital marketing channel manager role recently, and during a screen-sharing session, we asked the candidate to help us set up a Google Ads campaign from scratch. Those who were familiar with the interface knew exactly which buttons to click on, while others struggled to make the first few steps. In those situations, we ended the interview promptly, saving everyone time and the candidate further embarrassment.” 

Skills assessments can be highly beneficial in hiring for sales and marketing roles in several ways:

  • Assessing specific skill sets: They can evaluate candidates' proficiency in essential skills such as CRM software knowledge, digital marketing expertise, and sales techniques.

  • Evaluating soft skills: Skills assessments can measure crucial soft skills like communication, persuasion, and negotiation, which are vital in sales and marketing roles.

  • Testing strategic and analytical thinking: Assessments can help gauge candidates' ability to strategize, analyze market trends, and make data-driven decisions, which are critical for success in these roles.

  • Ensuring cultural fit: They can also help determine if a candidate's approach and attitude align with the company's values and culture, which is important in roles that require a high level of collaboration and team involvement.

  • Reducing bias in hiring: By focusing on skills and competencies, these assessments can help reduce unconscious biases, leading to more diverse and inclusive hiring.

4. Entry-level hires 

Entry-level hires may lack hard or technical skills, but they present a unique opportunity for hiring managers. Since they don’t have much experience or a packed resume to fall back on, you can easily use skills-based hiring for entry-level jobs to test soft skills and mindset instead. 

Examples of entry-level job roles include:

  • Junior software developer: Assists in developing and maintaining software applications.

  • Marketing coordinator: Supports marketing campaigns and activities.

  • Sales associate: Works in retail environments to assist customers and make sales.

  • Human resources assistant: Helps with administrative tasks in the HR department.

  • Customer service representative: Addresses customer inquiries and resolves issues.

  • Administrative assistant: Provides administrative support to an office or team.

This can be challenging when using skills-based hiring methods, though, since you might not know which skills candidates are likely to have or need. But it can also work in your favor. 

Examples of entry-level job roles include:

  • Junior software developer: Assists in developing and maintaining software applications.

  • Marketing coordinator: Supports marketing campaigns and activities.

  • Sales associate: Works in retail environments to assist customers and make sales.

  • Human resources assistant: Helps with administrative tasks in the HR department.

  • Customer service representative: Addresses customer inquiries and resolves issues.

  • Administrative assistant: Provides administrative support to an office or team.

  • Financial analyst: Assists with financial planning, analysis, and reporting.

Skills assessments can help in hiring for these roles by:

  • Evaluating basic industry knowledge: Testing for foundational understanding relevant to the job.

  • Assessing soft skills: Measuring communication, problem-solving, and teamwork skills, which are crucial in most entry-level positions. Assessments for soft skills can also help determine a candidate's interpersonal skills, adaptability, and customer service aptitude, all of which are essential in many entry-level roles.

  • Identifying learning potential: Assessing a candidate’s ability to learn and adapt, which is vital for entry-level roles where on-the-job learning is common.

  • Ensuring a good fit: Evaluating how well a candidate's skills and potential align with the company's culture and the role's requirements.

By testing and evaluating soft or transferable skills like communication, willingness to learn, personality traits, motivation, time-management, and problem-solving skills, you can find employees with the right perspectives and attitudes.

And these can be even more valuable than certain teachable hard skills, especially since the hardest to find and most in-demand soft skills for employers in 2023 were: 

  1. Resilience and adaptability

  2. Critical thinking and analysis 

  3. Reasoning and problem-solving 

  4. Leadership and social influence 

  5. Creativity and originality 

Skills-based hiring can help you find new hires with similar soft skills or who add to your company culture. Then, they can develop their hard skills and work experience on the job. This gives you the ability to shape new hires into the workforce you need while growing their natural skills and aptitudes. 

When hiring for entry-level positions, skills-based hiring can help you pinpoint in-demand soft skills. But what about senior positions or appointments? 

5. Senior appointments 

Although skills-based hiring is less prominent when recruiting for senior appointments like C-suite executives, it’s becoming more popular for increasing diversity in an organization. And many companies, in addition to their diversity and inclusion initiatives, want more diverse top-down representation

For example, in 2023, 85% of employers reported that diversity is an objective compared to 77% in 2022.

Skills-based hiring can make a big impact on leadership roles, senior appointments, and other white-collar roles within a business by giving you access to more diverse candidate pools that are typically overlooked. These include women, people of color, and people with disabilities. 

It’s also likely to go hand in hand with unconscious bias training, data collection, and any other bias-reducing initiative.

By narrowing your shortlist based on candidates’ experience and applied skills instead of their background, you limit employee turnover. At higher levels, this can have lasting positive effects on the structure and success of your organization. 

Here are some ideas for skills-based tests when hiring senior executives: 

Since skills-based hiring for leadership jobs helps create a more diverse workforce, it can also bring top-down visibility and inclusion to otherwise all-White, all-able-bodied, or all-male positions. But how does skills-based hiring work in retail? 

6. Retail roles

Traditionally, landing a job in retail requires a strong resume that describes past retail experience without much emphasis on prior education.

Examples of retail job roles include:

  • Sales associate: Assists customers on the sales floor and handles transactions.

  • Cashier: Manages the point of sale and processes customer transactions.

  • Stock clerk: Manages inventory, stocks shelves, and maintains store organization.

  • Store manager: Oversees store operations, staff management, and customer service.

  • Visual merchandiser: Designs and sets up store displays to enhance product visibility and appeal.

  • Loss prevention officer: Ensures security and prevents theft in the store.

It’s uncommon to see skills-based hiring in retail, especially since most retailers use outdated applicant tracking software that bases a candidate’s success on their references rather than skills. 

However, faced with staff shortages, many employers have no alternative but to find new ways of sourcing skilled candidates, and the popularity of skills-based hiring for retail jobs is growing

Skills assessments can help in hiring for these roles by:

  • Evaluating customer service skills: Testing for abilities in customer interaction, conflict resolution, and problem-solving.

  • Assessing sales skills: Measuring competencies in product knowledge, sales techniques, and upselling.

  • Testing for attention to detail: Important for inventory management and maintaining store appearance.

  • Checking organizational and math skills: Crucial for stock management and store organization.

  • Identifying leadership qualities: For roles like store manager, assessing management and leadership skills is essential.

However, adopting skills-based hiring can be challenging for roles that have traditionally valued experience or resumes over skills. This leaves employers with a sizable gray area regarding exactly what skills they’re looking for. 

Yet being successful in retail involves a range of hard and soft skills — like software skills, communication, and conflict resolution — which can all be tested and quantified. This goes for customer-facing employees like shop assistants and office-based roles like merchandise planners. You can use these skills as new markers of candidate performance and success.

Tests you can give candidates when using skills-based hiring for retail include the following: 

Since skills-based hiring helps you test and uncover the many skills needed for retail, you can get more qualified candidates regardless of their work history. But how does this apply to service roles? 

7. Service roles 

Skills-based hiring is starting to gain momentum for service roles like hotel receptionists, bar staff, and managers and in the service industry at large.

Examples of service job roles include:

  • Waitstaff: Serves food and beverages in a dining establishment.

  • Barista: Prepares and serves coffee and other drinks in a café.

  • Hotel receptionist: Manages guest check-ins and check-outs and provides customer service.

  • Flight attendant: Ensures passenger safety and comfort on airplanes.

  • Beauty therapist: Provides beauty services like facials, massages, and nail treatments.

  • Customer service representative: Addresses customer inquiries and issues in various industries.

Because those who do these jobs sell services to people, it makes sense to test service workers’ ability to handle face-to-face interactions and communication in addition to the technical skills required to run internal software or machinery. 

Skills-based hiring lets you find competent workers who might not have previous service-based experience but do have the skills and mindset necessary to succeed. 

Skills assessments can help in hiring for these roles by:

  • Evaluating interpersonal skills: Testing for abilities in customer interaction, empathy, and effective communication.

  • Assessing problem-solving skills: Important for handling customer complaints and unexpected situations.

  • Testing for specific technical skills: Such as knowledge of reservation systems for hotel receptionists or safety procedures for flight attendants.

  • Identifying adaptability and stress management: Crucial in fast-paced service environments where demands can change rapidly.

It also widens the pool of potential you can access and lets you evaluate the skills gap in employees hired using more traditional methods. For example, you can assess gaps in soft skills – like communication and customer empathy skills – that aren’t visible on a resume. 

Here are some skills-based tests you can use when hiring for service roles: 

Skills-based hiring in jobs like hospitality helps companies in the service industry hire without skills gaps, making new hires a better fit for the job at hand. Next, let’s take a look at how this works with administrative roles. 

8. Administrative roles 

Since businesses consider administrative roles relatively easy to test, it’s more common to see skills-based hiring in administrative positions.

It’s also no secret that most organizations deem office-based roles a good fit for pre-assessment testing, as opposed to fieldwork or labor-intensive roles. 

Examples of administrative job roles include:

  • Administrative assistant: Provides administrative support to an office or specific team.

  • Office manager: Oversees daily office operations and supports the staff.

  • Receptionist: Manages front desk duties and provides general office support.

  • Executive assistant: Offers high-level administrative support to executives.

  • Data entry clerk: Enters and manages data within an organization's systems.

And although skills-based hiring does help you find the best talent for the role, it can be challenging to determine the right mix of soft and hard skills needed by, let’s say, an office administrator or secretary

However, taking a skills-based approach to hiring can help you attract candidates with the skills you need. For example, you can use a skills-based data entry clerk job description to attract data entry clerks with specific skills. You can then use assessments to weed out candidates who claim they have acute organizational or people skills on paper but don’t in practice.

It also opens you up to candidates whose past experiences and skill sets better translate into administrative success — even without a resume to prove it. 

Here are some skills-based tests you can use for administrative jobs

Skills assessments can help in hiring for these roles by:

  • Evaluating organizational skills: Testing for abilities in managing schedules, files, and office resources.

  • Assessing communication skills: Important for handling correspondence, phone calls, and customer service.

  • Testing for computer literacy: Assessing proficiency in office software and digital tools.

  • Identifying attention to detail: Crucial for accuracy in data entry and managing office records.

Unlike administrative roles, which are easy to roll out a skills-based approach to hiring for, using skills-based hiring is a little more complicated with manufacturing roles. Here’s why.  

9. Manufacturing roles

Did you know that skills-based hiring can be used for blue-collar jobs? Although not yet widely adopted, he benefits of skills assessments include reducing mis-hires, cost-to-hire, and time-to-hire for employers.

Examples of manufacturing job roles include:

  • Assembly line worker: Assembles parts or products in a manufacturing facility.

  • Quality control inspector: Checks products for defects and ensures quality standards.

  • Machine operator: Operates and maintains manufacturing machinery and equipment.

  • Plant manager: Oversees all operations within a manufacturing plant.

  • Production supervisor: Manages production teams and schedules to meet output goals.

Since manufacturing roles often involve machinery and manual labor instead of office work, many businesses believe there’s little value in hiring workers remotely and testing their skills before they start. 

However, skills-based hiring can boost the quality of your employees (and your ability to retain them) by ensuring candidates understand the job’s requirements and whether it’s right for them before starting

Skills assessments can help in hiring for these roles by:

  • Evaluating technical skills: Testing for specific abilities related to machinery operation and manufacturing processes.

  • Assessing attention to detail: Important for quality control and ensuring product standards.

  • Testing for problem-solving skills: Assessing the ability to troubleshoot issues during the manufacturing process.

  • Identifying safety knowledge: Crucial for maintaining a safe working environment in manufacturing settings.

This works by giving candidates assessments like job simulations that have them imagine they’re in a given scenario on the job or job trials that simulate a day in the life in the role.

You can also use pre-employment tests like the following: 

By using these tests, you’ll get a more confident and capable workforce that knows it has what it takes to succeed. 

Skills-based hiring: Find the right people, whatever the role

With skills-based hiring, it’s easier to align new talent with the skills and day-to-day requirements of your open role. This helps them thrive in your organization and proactively add to the company culture. 

No matter the job, skills-based hiring is here to stay. And because it benefits both companies and workers, it helps HR managers and talent find the skills alignment and values they’re looking for – in all roles

That said, some roles are more suited than others to skills-based hiring – and certain industries are actively reaping the benefits.

When you use skills-based hiring to find the best talent for the job, regardless of their background, ethnicity, education, and resumes, you get a pool of skilled candidates who are the right fit for the role, love what they do, and will stick around – which positively impacts your hiring ROI. 

Sign up for your free TestGorilla plan and unlock the power of skills-based hiring.

Get better role-candidate alignment with skills-based hiring. Skills-based hiring helps you create a more diverse and effective hiring process. Download the State of Skills-Based Hiring report to find out how.

Sources

1. The Emerging Degree Reset, Burning Glass Institute (2022)

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