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Skills and Experiences Are Irrelevant When Hiring

A candidate’s ability to apply their skills is what counts.

There is a difference between something being relevant and being important. Of course, having the right skills and experiences are important to performing the job, just not relevant when hiring. Skills and experiences simply are the tools an applicant brings to the job. It is his or her ability to effectively use these tools that counts. Just because you have a hammer and saw in your garage, doesn’t make you a fine finish carpenter.

Since most people have been taught interviewing is about the candidate’s skills and experiences, the interviewer tends to ask a lot of questions about their past. For example, “What have you done in this area?” or “Have you ever done _____?” Those trained in behavioral interviewing will take those same questions and convert them into asking for an example such as, “Give me an example where you have done X” or “Tell me about a time when you had X as an issue.”

All of this may be good to know, but the fact is you really don’t care about any of this. When a candidate shows up on Monday morning, you no longer care about all the things they have done. You only care about one thing: whether or not he can do the job you are hiring him to do. Nothing else matters anymore. He may have the best skills and all the right experiences, but if he can’t apply them to do the job, then you really don’t care about his skills and experiences.

Have you ever hired a person that had all the right skills and experiences? She interviewed well, had all the right answers and had a resume that read like the job description. But after you hired her, she fell flat on her face. This has happened to just about everyone who has ever hired.

Why does this happen? It’s usually because the person’s skills and experiences are not primary indicators of his or her ability to do your job. These are at best secondary indicators and more often than not, misleading indicators. Yet, these are the indicators that most hiring managers rely on.

Instead, focus the interview on the primary reason for interviewing, which is: “Can he do your job?” The key to successful hiring is having a methodology that puts the candidate in the job BEFORE you hire him. It is not about determining if the candidate has the right tools. It is about determining if he can use those tools effectively to get your job done.

This is why behavioral interviewing often falls short. Behavioral interviewing was once a quantum leap forward in how interviewing was performed. However, it too has run its course.

Great interviewing is more than getting examples of the past. It is about performing a job. The tag line for behavioral interviewing, “past performance is an indicator of future performance,” isn’t always the case.

A good hiring methodology shifts the focus from the person’s skills and experiences to how she will use them to do your job. If she can’t use these effectively in your company and your position, then she may be a great person but not the right candidate. This is why candidates with all the right skills and experiences often fall flat on their faces.

Put the Candidate in the Job BEFORE You Hire

Stop asking questions that start with “have, what, have you, tell me about a time when, etc.” These are fine to know but they should be used for probing after the example and not for the example. The famous, who, what, when, where and why questions are for probing deep and not for opening questions.

“How” questions should be used for the opening question. One of the biggest challenges facing hiring managers is getting them to shift to asking “how” questions. After that you can then begin probing with the five W’s. For example, “How would you decrease costs by 10 percent?” “How would you increase gross margins by X percent?” “How would you go about implementing a complete systems upgrade of our ERP system?” “How would you increase market share in your territory?” Then probe deeply with the five W’s.

Now the interviewer is shifting the interview from skills and experiences to the candidate explaining how he would apply his skills and experience to do the job. If the candidate can’t apply his skills and experiences in the new job, then you have to question whether or not he is the right person, regardless of skills and experiences.

The reason most hiring processes fail is because it is easy for a candidate to talk about her skills and experiences. Some candidates might even embellish in this area. It significantly is different to explain how she would apply those skills and experiences in your company, with your culture, your resources, your budget constraints and all the aspects that make your company unique from the company she is leaving or just left.

About the author: Brad Remillard is a speaker, author and trainer with more than 30 years of experience in hiring and recruiting. Through his corporate workshops and industry association speaking engagements, he demonstrates how organizations effectively can attract, interview, hire and retain top talent. Brad is also the co-founder of Impact Hiring Solutions and co-author of, “You’re NOT the Person I Hired: A CEO’s Guide to Hiring Top Talent.” For more information on Brad’s hiring training programs or speaking, please visit

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