According to research, 60% of hiring managers agree that screening for soft skills is tough.
The question is; what on earth are these skills? And how can you assess them if you’re not 100% sure which of these qualities you should be looking out for?
What are soft skills?
In layman’s terms, soft skills are the personal attributes, personality traits, inherent social cues and communication abilities required to do a good job in a business or certain industry.
Some examples of this include:
- Decision making
- Time management
- Conflict resolution
- Critical thinking
Naturally, it comes as no great surprise that assessing these kinds of traits can be extremely challenging. Unlike hard skills that are learned, soft skills involve emotions or the ability to read others. To measure someone’s level of motivation or positivity is subjective.
What makes soft skills so important is that they can have a fundamental impact on the success of your business.
For instance, you could have a top builder who can build things in no time at all and to an extremely high standard, but if they are rude to a customer or always late for work, this can stop your business from securing future work.
Soft skills are acquired over time and are particularly important in customer-facing roles. If you hire a candidate who possesses a great deal of them, you’ll be able to diversify your company and help it push towards future success.
With this in mind, here are some quick and simple methods which will help you assess candidates on their soft skills during the recruitment process.
Get candidates to prioritise the required soft skills
Before the interview stage, create a list of soft skills (like above) and rank them in order of importance for the particular job you’re hiring for.
Using this as a basis, you should then ask candidates to rank these skills themselves. If there’s a clear difference with your list, this might be a cause for concern.
Rank their own soft skills
Asking candidates whether they have a certain soft skill or not will often give you an obvious response of “yes”. To avoid this, get your candidates to identify their strongest and weakest during the interview.
This will challenge them to think on their feet and will give you an instant insight into whether their soft skills align with your company’s requirements.
Give them a scenario to solve
Many interviewers ask candidates about a generic use of soft skills in irrelevant situations. Mix it up by giving them a real scenario your company recently experienced which required soft skills and get candidates to tell you how they’d solve the issue.
During each stage of their answer, ask them to point out which particular soft skill would be needed.
Challenge them to identify problems with your processes
Before the interview stage, get shortlisted clients to point out soft skill errors and problems with an existing flawed project proposal you’ve recently been working on.
If they are unable to find the obvious omissions in areas like feedback, relationship building, customer service and communications, you should pull the plug on that candidate.
Sneakily assess candidates when they’re not aware
In an interview, candidates act a lot differently to how they would in a real life, working environment. This is either because they’re anxious or because they’re trying to put on a front to impress you.
One of the best ways around this is to get your receptionist (if applicable), employees, onsite canteen workers etc. to observe how the candidates interact with them before they are called in for their interview.
It’s surprising how many soft skills and mannerisms you can pick up on when they’re not expecting it.
Alternatively, there’s no harm in asking mutual friends or past employers to give you a list of a candidate’s top soft skills to see if it matches your needs.
This method can also give you a key insight into how well a candidate can fit into your work culture too.
Do an assessment
There are a number of survey-based ways you can assess soft skills too. For example, vendors like HireVue provide a combination of neuroscience assessments that are no longer science fiction. They can include AI technology, as well as facial and voice recognition software to assess recorded interviews.
This kind of assessment can detect certain soft skills from a candidate’s facial expressions, voice inflexion and even physical movements.
Alternatively, if you don’t require that level of detail, you could always do a quick written soft skill survey instead. This should involve getting candidates to rank certain attributes into an order of priority when faced with certain job-related scenarios.
Hopefully, this list of methods might give you a better understanding of how to assess a candidate’s soft skills.
While it’s certainly not definitive, it can be used as a basis to help you find a perfect candidate who fits the philosophy of your company and the job spec itself.
For more top tips on assessing candidates, check out our previous posts here.