—Why your skills, knowledge and abilities will help you less and less.

For decades hiring professionals have relied on knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs, also known as SKAs) to determine whether a candidate should be moved forward in the hiring process.

Definitions: Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

This article by Sharlyn Lauby defines the three as:

Knowledge is the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.
Skills are the proficiencies developed through training or experience.
Abilities are the qualities of being able to do something. There is a fine line between skills and abilities. Most people would say the differentiator is whether the attribute is learned or innate.

Most often, jobeseekers carefully delineate their skills, usually in bulleted lists on their résumé. Knowledge is usually expressed through education. Skills and abilities (the application of knowledge) are usually expressed in the carefully bulleted experience details.

This method of evaluation only levels the playing field. In other words, once the candidates have been selected who have the qualifying knowledge, skills, and abilities, they are, essentially, ALL qualified.

How do we know who the top candidates are?

Further, these factors do not take into account the ability of the candidate to adapt to a new environment, interact productively in a culturally diverse, continuously changing workplace—all brought about by disruptive innovations and global commerce.

Online learning

So if the workplace is continuously changing, which candidate will manage change the best and bring the greatest business value?

Since the use of KSAs by themselves, can only bring the hiring process so far, hiring professionals have necessarily adapted their approach to find the best candidate. Consequently, the rules for hiring are changing.

How are the hiring rules changing?

Example One: Perhaps a jobseeker has worked at one company for over 20 years.

  • Old rule thinking: :
    This person is loyal and can be counted on in the midst of business challenges.
  • New rule thinking:
    Perhaps the person will not be able to quickly adapt to a new business environment.

Example Two: A jobseeker has worked in the same position for over six years.

  • Old rule thinking:
    S/he has the ability to continue to bring value at a company and settle into a role.
  • New rule thinking:
  • Perhaps this person will not be flexible or adaptable. S/he may be adverse to change.

Example Three: A jobseeker has “job-hopped” every two or three years.

  • Old rule thinking:
    There must be something wrong that this person keeps changing jobs.
  • New rule thinking:

    This person is flexible and adaptable. There’s probably a good reason, in this economy, for the changes. But I’m sure they know how to integrate into a new company.

In addition to these changes, and others, the manner in which we qualify for a position and demonstrate job fit have changed as well.


Why your technical job skills are becoming irrelevant.

Technical job skills refer to the ability a person possesses to perform a certain task with little or no training. Also called “hard skills.” From a job-seeker perspective these are the skills an employer expects a candidate to have when they begin a position.
Examples might include:

  • Manage Mail and Calendar through Outlook
  • Operate specific vehicles such as a bus or car.
  • Operate specific office equipment.
  • Use of Microsoft Office or other software.

Why it’s becoming irrelevant: With the explosion of new technologies and software, these skills are disappearing and others are quickly embraced.

What’s better? It’s far more useful if a person can learn a new technology than manage an old one.

Why your education and training are becoming irrelevant.

When hiring entities look for a knowledge base, they often refer to a combination of education, training and experience.
Examples might include:

  • Bachelor’s degree in statistics, mathematics or data analytics and 5+ years experience.
  • BS degree in Engineering, Business Management or related filed required. MS or MBA highly desirable.
  • Minimum of an Associates Degree in Human Services or related field. Education may be substituted with a minimum of three years relevant experience.

Why it’s becoming irrelevant: Although a four-year degree is still valued, the specific focus of the degree is becoming less important in many sectors. The reason is, again, that change is happening faster than a four-year curriculum can keep up. Certifications are quickly becoming more relevant, especially where technology is concerned.
Have you seen something like these:

  • Six Sigma or Lean Certification highly preferred.CCNA Certification or Equivalent
  • C++ Certification
  • Certified Professional Coder CPC®

Again, education is changing rapidly. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are flooding the market. This learning model allows the learners to master information through online venues and take exams to “certify” their skill sets.

The most up-to-date knowledge is available through the Internet through basic search or in secured databases. Often times, the knowledge learned in a four-year degree has been replaced by more recent information.

What’s better? It’s more useful to a hiring entity if a potential candidate demonstrates recent, up-to-date knowledge and skills, an ability to learn independently through a variety of venues, and research capabilities to determine the validity, relevance and application of information found online.

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Why your current abilities may be irrelevant.

The “abilities” listed and/or demonstrated on a resume are highly important. Over ten years ago as hiring professionals began to prepare for the retirement of the Baby boomer generation, core competencies became a part of the core HR software.

Employees have been and continue to be encouraged (and often mandated) to go through lists of core competencies in the company database and select those that represent their value to the company. Essentially, they are creating a database of transferrable skills.

Today we can easily find job postings that list the core competencies for a given position.

Why it’s becoming irrelevant: Core competencies have not become obsolete, however the type of interactions needed on a job are changing in a dramatic way. This is increasing the value of some core competencies and diminishing others.

McKinsey&Company site three kinds of interactions for the “new worker”.

The differences between these interactions focus on complexity.
They are:

  1. Transformational interactions: These include operating heavy machinery or working on production lines.
  2. Transactional interactions: This includes rule-based decision making, such as accounting, clerical work and auditing.
  3. Tacit interactions: These carry the highest degree of complexity and require a higher level of judgment. (“Tacit” refers to something that is implied without being stated.)

Colorful abstract doors

What’s better? As we move to a continuous change management model of business our ability to manage change and complex transactions will be the highest paid jobs with the most demand.

As companies adapt a labor-on-demand employment model, everyone who wants to earn the revenue needed to meet their life commitments will need to think differently about their knowledge, skills, and abilities, and promote themselves according to the newly valued attributes as well as keen expertise in a marketable specialty. This will be how continuous income will be maintained. Indeed, and soon, I believe we are quickly coming to the time when employment will interrupt the jobsearch.

The result of these changes, and others, is that some job markets are growing and others are diminishing. That will be a topic for a future blog.

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One thought on “Why Your Knowledge, Skills and Abilities No Longer Make the Cut

  1. Marcia has written quite an in depth piece,it reads like a rorschach test would look like if it where presented in words. She also brought an interesting point towards the end of the article about the job interrupting the job search. People are so encouraged to be in job search mode constantly by the way the market place looks at values. I wonder how soon it be before companies will start to implode because they are in a constant search for the next shiny object.

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