Knowledge, abilities and skills – How should we differentiate between them in the recruitment process?

Did you happen to meet candidates who convinced you with their knowledge during the interview, but who proved that they are not suitable for their job when they started the activity? Maybe you should do a more detailed analysis during recruitment. In a recruitment process for a job, there are three components according to which you can be guided to select candidates. With their help, you can identify the strengths or weaknesses of the candidates and you can make a choice that best suits the position for which you are recruiting.

It is about knowledge, abilities, and skills, three elements between which the differences can be subtle and which can often be confused. It is important to know that the distinction between them is given by the fact that some may derive from innate qualities, and others are acquired, either by theoretical learning or by experience gained over time.

The BIA HR team can help you identify the right candidate for your team by analyzing their knowledge, abilities, and skills.


Knowledge: How they accumulate and what they mean

Education, training, and professional qualification courses help you get knowledge. This knowledge is essential for a CV and must be analyzed in a recruitment process so that you can know if a candidate can meet the requirements of a particular job.

Knowledge is mental or theoretical rather than practical. For example, we can talk about operating knowledge of specific software, the knowledge that helps the candidate to cope with a job in the IT field. But knowing how to do a certain task does not mean that he can do it, even if he understands the steps and what should happen.


What are the Abilities and what do they help?

They can be technical, such as those related to the use of programming language in the IT field, or non-technical, such as those related to time management, project management, strategy implementation, or budget management.

There is a pretty fine line between abilities and skills, which is why the two notions are often confused. Basically, abilities are natural, their acquisition often depends on a person’s way of being, while skills are learned behaviors.


How to identify skills

By definition, skills are positive qualities, they may or may not exist in a candidate’s profile and could be defined by how well he or she knows how to apply knowledge and abilities.

For example, the skills of an IT specialist can help him to identify and solve easily and in a very short time the problems that an information system can encounter. The ability to brilliantly solve any problems involved in a job is a skill, and it has behind it not only learned knowledge, but also a number of personal traits, such as speed of reaction or resistance to stress.

Skills can be developed and improved over time, matching abilities and knowledge. For example, brisk running is an ability, but it becomes a skill when the athlete develops his muscles through regular exercise.


What should you look for in an interview?

Knowledge, abilities, and skills are important when hiring a new colleague. You need a candidate with a theoretical understanding, but also with proof that he has put his knowledge into practice. Skills are harder to see, but they can be identified by questions, by assessment, or even by a day that a potential colleague has the opportunity to spend in the company. In the interview you can ask:

  • Can you tell me a situation in which you solved a problem by working in a team?
  • Do you have an example of when you turned a customer complaint into a positive experience?

These questions can give you clues about the candidate’s ability to work in a team, solve a problem, or provide good customer service.

Let’s take the example of candidate X who knows very well the processes in a certain industrial sector. However, the candidate does not have the knowledge specific to the area in which the company is located and should focus on improving this knowledge. The good part is that you have a candidate with a lot of technical abilities, curious, involved, and willing to learn, which means that he has the skill to gain new knowledge. In this case, you have a simple question to explore: Is the candidate able to understand the overall picture of the company?

The only way to see the skills in action is to put the candidate in a real work environment, either through a day at the company’s headquarters or through probationary days. The trial period is eloquent because you have the opportunity to see how well the candidates fit the role and culture of the company. Candidates also evaluate this period and in the end, it is easier for you to make a well-documented decision together.


Why is it important to always differentiate between knowledge, abilities, and skills?

Correct identification of them is important not only during the interview but also in supporting the development of colleagues. When an employee wants to grow, it’s important to determine what he or she is missing. If knowledge is required, then books, research, courses can be recommended.

If skills are lacking, then better practical training may be needed.

It is more difficult to train someone who lacks abilities because they are much harder to change. Your mission is to identify an employee’s abilities and provide opportunities for those abilities to be developed, even if it is a much longer and more complicated process.


Support continuous development

According to the LinkedIn report, Workplace Learning Report, made in 2018:

  • 68% of employees prefer to study at work
  • 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace
  • 49% of employees prefer to learn when they need to

And it’s important to keep these preferences in mind when developing a training plan for the people on your teams. Organizations around the world have experienced different learning methods, and we can take the example of an American telecommunications company that successfully implemented an employee training program when the company expanded.

The director of development created a list of the knowledge that employees needed to learn. He then used an online tracking tool to delegate the list to each employee. Employees could choose how and when to learn each of the things on the list.

Here’s what employees did: Some started e-learning, some preferred to be guided by managers and colleagues, others used text messages to receive advice from colleagues and friends to accomplish their tasks. The tracking tool allowed the management to keep up to date with the progress of each of the employees.

In order for people and the company they belong to evolve, you should provide them with ongoing training. Training can help people expand their knowledge, develop new skills or improve their existing skills.

Also, at the team and company level, managers can support colleagues to hone their skills, because some can be naturally improved through repetition and experience.

Skills and knowledge are easier to influence and improve, it is more difficult to develop skills without abilitiies.


How to encourage the exchange of knowledge and skills

A study by the ADP Research Institute shows that the use and sharing of knowledge is one of the global trends in the labor market. Let’s look at an example to understand the difference between knowledge, abilities, and skills. According to the ADP study, worldwide, the baby boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964, but especially those born after 1957) are close to retirement. They have years of experience that, if not passed on to future generations, could be lost.

Companies can keep this knowledge, allowing new generations to have access to it. For example, Generation Z comes with their own knowledge, acquired through education and the environment in which they were born, but in order to learn from baby boomers, they will need abilities. Instead, baby boomers will need skills and the ability to pass on their knowledge.

Here are some ways you can share knowledge, abilities, and skills

• Help mentors pass on their expertise. Mentors should not be just seniors.

• Encourage reverse mentoring: the younger generation passes on their knowledge to the older generation and vice versa, seniors pass on their knowledge to the younger generation.

• Keep knowledge based on experience. Employees who have been in the company for a long time can provide new employees with insights on how to perform certain tasks in order to meet the expectations of managers, clients, stakeholders.

• Initiate programs that support an open culture for learning and training. Thus you can keep employees motivated and involved in their work.

You can set the correct expectations in the job advertisement that should show exactly the knowledge, abilities, and skills needed to cope with a role, including a detailed description of the candidate who can take over the new job and cope with it.  And you have the freedom to create the ad in the clearest and most authentic way possible without necessarily taking into account the standard categories: requirements, responsibilities. And further, your role is to support the development of colleagues and the exchange of knowledge and experience, so that together you can evolve beautifully.

Sources: -skills-and-abilities /


Read also:

How to prevent the Great Resignation

How do you make a difference in recruitment in 2022? HR Trends that are worth following


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