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Identifying Adjacent Skills in Resume and Beyond to Unlock the full potential of your workforce

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In today’s rapidly evolving world, the demand for individuals with diverse skill sets is on the rise. While having expertise in a specific field is valuable, it is equally important to recognize and leverage adjacent skills. Adjacent skills are those abilities that complement and enhance your core competencies, opening up new avenues for personal and professional growth. In this article, we will explore the concept of adjacent skills, delve into the process of identifying them, and discuss effective strategies for harnessing their full potential.

What are adjacent skills?

Adjacent skills refer to the abilities and knowledge that are closely related or connected to your primary area of expertise. These skills may not be your primary focus, but they possess the potential to enhance your performance and contribute to your success. They can be transferable skills, industry-specific skills, or even skills from unrelated fields that can be applied in innovative ways. These skills may not be explicitly mentioned in job description, but they can enhance an employee’s ability to understand what they need to learn to improve performance and even move beyond their current roles and perform different tasks as needed.

In 2017, researchers at McKinsey predicted that up to 14 percent of the global workforce, or 375 million workers, may require new skill sets by 2030, as automation and other advances make their existing skill sets obsolete.

“The changes in net occupational growth or decline imply that a very large number of people may need to shift occupational categories and learn new skills in the years ahead,” write James Manyika and fellow researchers at McKinsey. They predict that a change in the labor force on the scale of the Industrial Revolution is on its way, with corresponding impacts on workers and on-demand for certain skills.

How will these workers transition into the roles that await them in the future? The answer lies in developing adjacent skills.

Importance of Adjacent Skills

As adjacent skills are developed, one skill may lead to another. For example someone who knows Python, for instance, can more easily learn TensorFlow in order to improve their work with machine learning, or learn Django if they’re needed for front-end work.

Developing adjacent skills allows workers to perform their current roles more effectively, and it also prepares them to accept promotions, make lateral moves within the same organization, or adapt to changes in the way their current job is done. Over time, a worker’s career may move in directions that no one anticipated or expected at the start — but that end up being precisely the direction the worker and company need in order to thrive.

Companies aren’t new to skills gaps. Rapid advances in technology have been causing such gaps for some time. Now, however, skills gaps are becoming common in non-technical areas, and they’re having a significant impact on organizations’ ability to manage fast-paced change and uncertainty.

Identifying Adjacent Skills

Comprehensive resumes

As a recruiter, I carefully review resumes to identify candidates core competencies and evaluate the presence of adjacent skills. Candidates who clearly articulate their primary expertise and highlight related skills and experiences have a greater chance of catching my attention.

Job descriptions and requirements

When screening candidates for specific roles, closely examine job descriptions and requirements to identify adjacent skills that can add value to the position. Candidates who possess additional skills beyond the essential qualifications often stand out as potential candidates for further consideration.

Interviews and conversations

During interviews and conversations, probe candidates to explore their experiences beyond their primary expertise. This helps uncover hidden talents, unique perspectives, and transferable skills that candidates may possess, but may not have emphasized in their resumes.

Professional networks

Leverage your professional network to identify candidates with diverse skill sets. By connecting with colleagues, attending industry events, and participating in networking activities, you often come across individuals who have adjacent skills that can be valuable to your clients.

Developing and Harnessing Adjacent Skills

Highlighting the value proposition

Candidates who understand the power of their adjacent skills and effectively communicate their value proposition have an advantage. When reviewing applications, look for candidates who can clearly articulate how their complementary skills enhance their primary expertise and bring added value to the organization.

Adapting to new roles

Candidates who are open to exploring new roles and are willing to apply their adjacent skills in different contexts are highly desirable. This adaptability demonstrates their versatility and ability to thrive in dynamic work environments.

Problem-solving abilities

Harnessing adjacent skills often leads to improved problem-solving abilities. Candidates who can showcase how their complementary skills enable them to tackle complex challenges from multiple angles are more likely to stand out during the selection process.

Collaboration and teamwork

The ability to collaborate effectively with diverse teams is essential in today’s interconnected world. Candidates who can leverage their adjacent skills to bridge gaps and foster collaboration across different departments or disciplines are highly valued.

Continuous learning mindset

Candidates who proactively seek opportunities to learn and develop their adjacent skills exhibit a growth mindset that is highly attractive to employers. They demonstrate a commitment to personal and professional growth, signaling their potential to adapt to future challenges and contribute to the organization’s success.

Benefits of Adjacent Skills

Improved internal hiring

Internal mobility allows companies to promote top talent within their organization. It’s easier to identify adjacent skills among existing employees as they’ve already shown their capabilities and potential. As a result, companies can avoid talent shortages and build a stable pipeline of qualified candidates internally.

They help close skills gaps

Every company has skills gaps, but the difference is in how they respond. The solution is to be flexible and look for job applicants who possess related abilities to those the job description targets. It’s much easier to help employees develop the necessary competencies than find a person who meets all requirements.

Improved employee motivation

Workers often lose motivation when they lack the skills to complete a task or participate in a new project. Helping them strengthen their adjacent skills increases their odds of being able to switch between multiple assignments.

An expanded perspective

When employees possess skills from various spheres, they have a unique perspective and can approach tasks from different angles. Thanks to that, they’ll be able to identify connections, possibilities and overlaps that others can’t.

Expanded professional opportunities

Nowadays, most people change multiple job roles and positions throughout their lives, striving to find what they do best. Adjacent skills allow employees to explore their potential and open doors they wouldn’t otherwise.


As a recruiter, recognizing the immense value of identifying and harnessing adjacent skills in candidates is not just important but in most cases a deciding factor. These skills set individuals apart, enabling them to bring a multifaceted approach to their work and contribute to organizational growth and success. In an increasingly competitive job market, candidates who possess a diverse skill set and can adapt to evolving challenges are in high demand. By embracing adjacent skills, candidates can showcase their versatility, drive innovation, and unleash their full potential, making them invaluable assets to any organization.

In your search for the most promising candidate, AI sourcing tools like Arya by Leoforce can help accelerate the entire process. Request a demo today to see how!


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