This article reprises debates over ‘the social construction of skill’ (SCS), in the context of the rise of a service economy, and a diminished capacity for collective worker protection of job quality. After exploring the changed conceptual terrain in which the concept of SCS is deployed, it puts the case for recognising under‐documented skills in service jobs. It argues that real (because based on learning) but hitherto uncodified skills are beginning to be mapped in a corpus of interpretative research. A fieldwork‐based conceptual framework is offered for more fully codifying these skills. Such codification may give employers a handle for increased behavioural control, but may also help workers gain recognition and reward for real skills. We identify ‘stages of social construction’: first, skills' ‘detection’ and naming in job‐analysis interviews and second, skills recognition in qualifications and job/person descriptions. Increased remuneration and/or work reorganisation through political–institutional processes, driven by the agency of unions and professional organisations, HR departments or even management itself, may follow. The politics of the concepts' development (or not) in academic and policy communities – another facet of the SCS – we eschew here.