Woman working on laption

A Recruiter's Guide to Addressing Skills Gaps

From skills taxonomies to working with your hiring manager, here's our guide to addressing skills gaps in your organization.

A hiring manager and a recruiter are a dynamic duo.

These two work together to bring on much-needed capacity and skillsets to the organization. But how do they know if they're filling the right need at the right time?

Knowing where your team excels and is falling behind from a skillset perspective can be difficult. However, if you aren't critically thinking about your current skill gaps and how to fill them, you could be hiring the wrong people at the wrong time - or not hiring at all, even when you should.

So, let's dive into skill gaps and how recruiters and hiring managers can work together to identify gaps and use their analyses to fuel workforce planning, talent attraction, and training programs.

What is a skills gap?

A skills gap is the difference between the skills your team needs to reach its goals and the skills in the team today.

You can think about skill gaps at a market (i.e., talent shortage), company (i.e., lack of in-house talent), or individual level (i.e., the candidate isn't qualified). For the sake of this article, we will refer to skill gaps at the company level. In other words, how can hiring managers and recruiters work together to identify which skills are missing in their teams and what they can do about it?

Factors that Contribute to Skills Gaps

Skill gaps have always been around, but let's talk briefly about how they come about in the first place - at the company level, anyway.

As a company grows, business needs change, and new tools enter the market, it's natural to feel like you need to bring new employees to add skills and capacity to the team. But this awkward in-between phase between feeling a skills gap and solving it can take some time and hinder performance and innovation until it is solved. To understand what you can do to solve your skills gap, start by asking yourself how the skill gap came to be in the first place. Here are a few of the most common factors that contribute to skill gaps:

  • A lack of experience with a tool, project, or skill amongst your current team members.
  • Lack of training opportunities for your employees to learn new skills and develop into new domains.
  • Not hiring the right people with the proper skill set, to begin with. Essentially, it is a mis-hire that has resulted in you needing to make another hire or heavily invest in training.
  • Employee turnover is natural, but when it happens, it can leave a gaping hole in where a lucrative skillset once was - leaving you with no choice but to replace the team member.
  • Changes in roles or responsibilities are also entirely natural and a part of the employee lifecycle. But as promotions happen and responsibilities shift, you'll likely need to replace the role and responsibilities left behind.

Performing a Gap Analysis

Maybe your skill gap arose from one of the points above or mix. Either way, it's time to do something about it. When faced with a skills gap (or any gap for that matter), the most obvious point of action is to perform a gap analysis with the hiring manager.

What does "perform a gap analysis" actually mean?

Essentially, it's about writing out what skills do you have today and what the ideal skillset combo you need to have to reach your goals - whether this is launching a new product, entering a new market, or ramping up commercial activities. Regardless, it always starts with being uncomfortably transparent about your strengths and weaknesses as a team that either supports or hinders you from reaching those goals.

In addition to just listing out where you are today and where you would like to be, there are a few other things we would like you to consider in your gap analysis.

  1. Build a skills taxonomy. Having a skills gap is one thing, but where do these gaps come from? Are they knowledge gaps that can be solved with training? Or are they knowledge gaps that require you to bring on new team members (i.e., someone with a computer science degree or experience in bringing a product to market), or capacity gaps (i.e., you just don't have enough people and need to hire more)? This taxonomy can guide you in distinguishing between training and hiring needs, fostering the growth of existing team members, and pinpointing areas where fresh talent is the answer.
  2. Decide if it's a training or a hiring issue. Hiring might not (always) be the answer. If you have high-performing employees with potential, and the skills you need are trainable, a good development program and courses might be all you need. This should be answered in your skills taxonomy.
  3. Consider long-term company goals. Always consdier your long-term goal in your initial gap analysis. But here is your reminder to think long-term about upcoming product/service launches and other company-wide projects. This will help you consider who you need to hire now and their development opportunities and help carve out who you need to hire in the coming years.
  4. Account for promotions and general turnover. Don't forget that your current team won't always be your team. Think about their short- and long-term development within the company when you think about who you need to hire.

Using your Gap Analysis

Once you and the hiring manager have completed the gap analysis, it's time to put those insights to work. You can use the insights to influence many decisions, but here are our top three you can start with today.

For workforce planning

The most obvious way to put your gap analysis to use comes down to workforce planning. While gap analysis won't directly tell you to "hire a new sales manager," it will help uncover commercial skillsets you may be lacking to reach your goals. By understanding what skills you are missing, you can find patterns and groupings that together help you bucket your needs into role titles and timelines.

For writing Job Descriptions

Once you know which roles to hire and when to fill your skills gaps, you can start writing out the job descriptions for your most urgent roles. The good news is that a lot of the hard work has already been completed in your original analysis. It's time to layer that information on top of your standard job description templates.

  1. What skills/abilities/competencies does the candidate need to have to succeed in this role? This question is used to ensure that you have determined essential skills that a person needs to have to do their job. Although you would have slowly been gauging this from the previous questions, this is the time to finalize your list of key requirements.
  2. What demographics does this role require? This could be related to education, years of experience, language requirements, or even market presence. Although this isn't always skill-gap related, putting these questions in your job descriptions is a must. It will ensure that you address the requirements regarding formal qualifications. If they do, you can also find out what level and areas.

For Building Training Programs

While workforce planning and job descriptions are related to hiring new talent, your gap analysis can also be used to tool up your current workforce. As mentioned previously, it's not always the case that your gap analysis will point you in the direction of new hires. Sometimes, the skills you need are trainable, and your current team is willing to take on the task. If that's the case, decide which skill gaps are most urgent, and make a project plan for training and developing together! While training isn't always cheap, it's more efficient than making a new hire you don't necessarily need.

Hiring managers and recruiters make quite the team. Using a gap analysis to identify skill, competency, and training gaps, they ensure organizations have the right skills at the right time, now and down the road.

Author profile Meagan Leber

Growth Marketing Manager at Amby, who loves writing about the tech, venture capital, and people space.