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  • Writer's pictureSimon Elkinson

Implementing a Skills-First Hiring Strategy: A CIO’s Guide

By Simon Elkinson, Piccadilly One


As the Director at Piccadilly One, I am constantly speaking with CIOs whose roles are constantly evolving with the rapid advancements in technology. One of the most critical shifts we’re seeing today is in hiring practices, moving away from traditional criteria to a more dynamic, skills-first approach. This method emphasises the abilities and potential of candidates over their formal qualifications and past job titles. Here's how you can implement a skill-first hiring strategy to bring the best talent into your IT department.


Define the Required Skills

Start by pinpointing the core competencies necessary for each role. Focus not just on technical prowess like coding or system architecture but also on essential soft skills such as problem-solving and teamwork. Develop detailed skill profiles for each position, clearly outlining the required skills, proficiency levels, and desirable attributes.


Revise Job Descriptions

Rewrite job descriptions to highlight the skills and abilities needed rather than specific educational backgrounds or years of experience. Use clear and concise language to describe the role's responsibilities and expectations, ensuring the descriptions are inclusive and appealing to a diverse range of candidates.


Implement Skill Assessments

Use practical assessments to evaluate candidates’ abilities. Platforms like HackerRank, Codility, or LeetCode for technical roles, and tools like Pymetrics or Criteria Corp for soft skills and cognitive abilities, can be invaluable. Design these assessments to reflect real-world tasks the candidates will face on the job, providing a true gauge of their capabilities.


Utilise Technology and Tools

Leverage AI-driven tools to screen resumes and identify candidates based on their skills. This can help reduce biases and streamline the hiring process. Platforms offering skill assessments are particularly useful for objectively evaluating candidate abilities.


Train Hiring Managers and Teams

Provide training to hiring managers on how to effectively assess skills during interviews. This includes using behavioural interviewing techniques and structured formats to ensure consistency. Additionally, educate the team on unconscious biases and strategies to mitigate them, ensuring a fair and equitable evaluation process.


Leverage Data and Analytics

Track key metrics such as time-to-hire, quality of hire, candidate performance, and retention rates to evaluate the effectiveness of your skill-first hiring strategy. Use this data to make informed adjustments and continuously improve your approach.


Promote a Skills-Based Culture

Encourage current employees to develop new skills, fostering a culture of continuous learning and growth. Implement training and development programs that focus on building the skills required for future roles within your organisation.


Partner with External Organisations

Collaborate with coding bootcamps, online learning platforms, and professional associations to access a wider talent pool. Engage with organisations that focus on underrepresented groups in tech to ensure a diverse range of candidates.



Transitioning to a skill-first hiring strategy can significantly enhance the quality of your hires and create a more inclusive workplace. This approach allows you to attract and retain top talent who are well-equipped to navigate the challenges of today’s technology landscape.


At Piccadilly One, we have seen how prioritising skills over traditional credentials can lead to a more dynamic and capable workforce. By focusing on what candidates can do rather than where they’ve been, we build teams prepared to drive innovation and achieve our clients’ strategic goals.


For more insights and practical tips, feel free to reach out or explore resources like Harvard Business Review, SHRM, and McKinsey & Company.


Simon Elkinson, Director at Piccadilly One

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