What is a “skills matrix” within public sector contracts? What are the pros and cons?

Working on public sector positions within the digital space, you are often required to ask specialists to complete a bullet pointed list of questions. The questions are based on your skills and experience in whatever the project is and what the role involves.
For example, a recent contract I have worked on was for a Programme Manager contract. One of the questions was:
• Be a skilled leader able to communicate the value of data and related insights to digital and non-digital stakeholders. Able to communicate effectively across organisational, technical and political boundaries.

The specialist is asked to provide a brief (no more than 100 word) description of where they worked; the project they worked on; how they demonstrated (in this example) that they were a skilled leader with the action they took and the results of their actions. Also known within the world of HR and Recruitment, as the STAR technique!

You can use the same project example for multiple answers.

Working at ‘X company’ as ‘Y job title’ I was involved in ‘Z project’. I was responsible for ‘X’ and did ‘X, Y and Z’. This was the result.
This process may seem like a laborious and as someone recently described it to me: ‘menial task’, but it really does matter. Most importantly because, the client cannot see your CV. The client utilises the skills matrix, to evaluate who is suitable for the contract from their answers.
This may seem unfair, you have after all spent a great deal of time and effort on your CV, but it does demonstrate those who are really interested in the contract.

On that note, let us move on nicely to the pros and the cons of the skills matrix.

It is concise and straightforward, with the 100 word limit on the answers, there isn’t a great deal to write for each question. You can briefly encapsulate your work and move onto the next question.
On the flipside of this, 100 words is not a lot – particularly when you find some of the specialists have 12 pages of CV, because they have done many different projects. When the skills matrix’ get sent in, we do edit them in order to reduce text and ensure everything reads well. We appreciate it is hard to summarise your knowledge, experience etc. into 100 words however.
In saying that, it definitely streamlines the process, especially as it is for contract work. With contracts, you really have to hit the ground running, so the client needs to evaluate the applications quickly. The skills matrix allows for that and an extra bonus is that it reduces waiting time from interviews and decisions.
We recently submitted a skills matrix and within two weeks the specialist had been selected for interview from their skills matrix, interviewed and had been successful. They’re now working on-site with the client in a brand new contract.
There can be some repetition with skills matrix’, but that is something I am seeing a reduction in as time goes on. I imagine, the people writing the skills matrix’ are getting more accustomed to what they need out of it; therefore they don’t have to ask the same question in two different ways.
An example: “experience with the Agile methodology” > “experience with Agile methods, e.g. User Stories”. That is essentially the same question, but at least you get another 100 words to write about your Agile experience!
Speaking of experience, you definitely get a level playing field with the skills matrix. If you have gaps on your CV because you may have taken sabbatical or had personal reasons; the client doesn’t need to know that and therefore there is no need for you to have to justify it. As long as you have got the right experience for the project and the client, you have a strong chance of getting a new contract.


I know that it may seem tiresome, especially when you go through skills matrix process often and you don’t immediately get the contracts you want. It really does pay off though and we at Netsource do provide guidance, proofing and submittal of the skills matrix’. From the guidance provided, it definitely makes the process easier and we have plenty of contractors who have completed the skills matrix and then have landed themselves long-term contracts on large, high profile projects across the UK.

If you would like further information on this subject or you are interested in an IT career, get in touch with our specialist Lucy Marks on 0161 950 8844 or email