In 2022, 50.5 million people quit their jobs, with many looking for higher pay, more development opportunities, and better options for flex and remote work. For employers, that poses a problem, as 2022 closed with a vacancy rate almost twice that of the hiring rate (11 million job openings to just 6.2 million hires, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics).

With employee shortages affecting nearly every industry, organizations are increasingly turning to skills-based hiring to find strong candidates who are likely to remain in a role. Yet, even in “low-skill” jobs such as fast food and customer service, recruiters rarely look at transferable skills or relevant job skills that candidates may have learned in other occupations.

For many organizations, prioritizing skills in the hiring process can save money, cut the time to fill roles, and minimize personnel shortages while reducing the training needed to onboard someone in a role. Read on to learn more about transferable skills and how to incorporate them into your hiring process.

What are transferable skills?

Transferable skills are those that can follow an employee from one role to another. These skills can move between both roles and organizations. Common transferable skills include:

  • Project management
  • Time management
  • Interpersonal relationship management
  • Communication
  • Leadership

You can often look at individual roles and map their skills directly to those required for other positions. For example, the skills and requirements of the food service industry often closely match those required for customer service. So, someone with experience as a waitress likely has much of the people management, order management, and conflict resolution necessary to be a stellar customer support agent. That’s true of many other roles (excluding technical skills).

To convert your hiring process to one based on transferable skills, you must first determine the skills you need for specific jobs and map them to appropriate roles. Then, you can broaden your candidate pool.

Skills matrices

A skills matrix maps the skills that exist in your organization to the roles you’re hiring for. That entails defining skill sets across positions. This may require a significant investment of time, as you may find the same roles have multiple naming schemes across teams, responsibilities may not be the same for everyone in the role, etc.

With the matrix, you can utilize several methods to assess the skills you leverage in your organization, including:

  • Using industry benchmarks to set baselines for what should be there
  • Assessing tools, technologies, and processes to identify gaps
  • Interviewing teams to see what skills they employ
  • Running skills assessments to determine what competencies your workforce has and where it’s lacking

Often, you’ll find people with widely different skill sets can succeed in the same roles. That’s especially true in roles like sales and customer service, where soft skills are the most important aspect of the role.

Once you have skill profiles in place, it’s important to validate them, update them over time, and regularly check the alignment between what you’re looking for in a candidate and what you need.

Skills tests

Skills assessments are impressively precise at uncovering the skills your employees use in their roles. They’re also a great way to determine if a candidate can do the work required. In fact, depending on the role, a skills assessment can provide a better indication of competency than a resume.

Implementing skills tests can be tricky for “low skill” jobs however. That’s an important consideration because the more entry level the job, the less effort candidates are willing to invest to get the job. Therefore, it’s important to prioritize what skills you’re testing for, looking for only the most necessary ones and keeping assessments as short as possible during the hiring process. Once you’ve made the hire, you can give a longer assessment to see where that person might need extra training.

Remediating skills gaps

Skills-based hiring can mean you hire people with most or all relevant skills but none of the concrete job experience. If you take this route, you’ll want to launch a coaching or mentoring program to bring new hires up to speed.

Or, you may hire people with some experience, but who are missing some of the essential skills you need. Implementing training programs such as digital learning portals, coaching, or workshops can help remediate those gaps immediately, which allows you to fill a vacancy quickly (saving you money) without sacrificing competencies.

That process becomes more difficult when hiring for technical skills, as these can require significant training and coaching. However, it’s still a cost-effective option in the long run, especially if you offer internal training for hard skills like code languages.

Established training programs also support horizontal movement across the organization, as people acquire the skills to move around within a company instead of leaving when they want to change their roles or their current position becomes outdated.


Finding candidates with the right mix of skills is a complex but crucial task to ensure a productive and well-rounded organization. You need certain skill sets for specific roles but also broader competencies that can transfer across positions and responsibilities.

Employ robust testing, such as behavioral assessments, to measure the current skills of your workforce and determine what’s missing. This will narrow your candidate pool and guide you toward a stronger hire. Pinpoint the key skills your role needs and let them guide your selection; training and coaching can fill less critical gaps. A clear, organized skills matrix is essential here, not only for honing in on core capabilities for each position, but also to net strong talent so you hire people with all of the relevant skills needed to perform well.

Through skills-based hiring, you’ll be able to draw from a more valuable and relevant candidate pool and locate the right people to close the gaps in your organization.