Should you hire for knowledge, skills or ability?

Should you hire for knowledge, skills or ability?

You know the drill: you need to hire staff.  Your business may require additional support, or someone has moved on to a different role, meaning there is a need to recruit for a role. Whether you seek out the services of a recruitment company or decide to recruit internally, there are a few steps that need to be completed:

  1. Write a job description
  2. Advertise – both on your internal job board and externally
  3. Screen & shortlist
  4. Interview
  5. Candidate selection
  6. Letter of offer and package negotiation

Starting with the job description – the pre-requisite skills, knowledge and abilities specified in the job description will quite often influence which candidates apply, are shortlisted and eventually selected for the role. So the question is – should you hire for knowledge, skills or ability?

Sharlyn Lauby from HR Bartender provides an excellent definition for each of these qualities:



Proficiencies developed through training or experience – meaning that you have demonstrated how to do something through the application of knowledge such as the application of a model/completion of a task.



A theoretical or practical understanding of a topic or subject. Doesn’t necessarily mean that the candidate possesses the practical application, just that they know the subject and understand it.



These are the qualities of being able to do something. There is a small distinction between skills and abilities, being defined as skills being learned and abilities being innate.

The focus on whether to hire for skills, knowledge or ability (or a combination of these factors) really depends on the type of role that is being recruited for: sales and managerial roles really require natural leadership abilities and a tenacious nature. Accountants require knowledge, skills and abilities in different areas. Lawyers require in-depth domain knowledge and skill-base.

Once you have confirmed the mix of skills, knowledge and abilities required for the role, ensure this is clearly communicated when you write the job description. Good practice would be to shortlist candidates according to the skills, abilities and knowledge required and then rank candidates according to these criteria during the interview process.

Does your business require recruitment support or advice? Speak to the recruitment team at Flexi Personnel.