If you'll be hiring internally in the future, consider creating an employee skills inventory. It provides a helpful catalog of the current skills, attributes, credentials and areas of knowledge within your organization. While conventional job histories tend to focus on accomplishments, a skills inventory looks at the employee skills and attributes that enabled those accomplishments.

Even if your company is relatively small, it may be worthwhile to develop an employee skills inventory. Then you can simply search through the skills inventory to identify employees who come closest to meeting the requirements of a particular position. And you eliminate the time required to sort through countless folders and compile a list of promising candidates.

Creating a skills inventory

Given the usual versatility and power of today's databases, you can incorporate a vast number of categories into your employee skills inventory. But make sure each field in the database has some administrative or strategic importance. The best way for businesses to gather most of the information for this database is to create a simple skills questionnaire.

Optimizing your skills questionnaire

When you create your skills questionnaire, try to keep the number of fields to a reasonable minimum, and make sure that they're job-related. Ideally, you'll distribute the skills questionnaire to employees using a customized, password-protected website that can send it by email.

The more in touch you are with the existing talents, skills and attributes of your company's employees, the more effectively you can take advantage of this expertise — and give your staff opportunities for career advancement.