Traditionally, when evaluating potential new hires, employers tended to focus rather narrowly on work experience and so-called “hard skills.” Hard skills are objective, specific, teachable abilities that are relatively easy to quantify. Some examples of hard skills would be: proficiency in a foreign language, knowledge of machinery operation, or typing speed. Typically, these skills are featured prominently on the job seeker’s resume and are not open to interpretation. “Soft skills,” on the other hand, are the more elusive set of subjective skills that reside in the job candidate as a person. They include both personal and interpersonal qualities, habits of mind, and character traits that complete the picture of just who exactly, on a deeper level, you might be hiring. Increasingly, employers are consciously shifting focus from hard skills to the soft skills in order to ensure they not only get the most qualified candidate, but the very best individual for them. Below are seven soft skills you shouldn’t overlook in job candidates during the hiring process.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but communication skills play a huge role in the integration and productivity of employees. Excellent writing skills should be considered a hard skill. But communication in general–the ability to understand and be understood by a wide range of others–that’s definitely a soft skill, and one whose value should never be underestimated.
Creativity is a great example of a skill that most people would consider unteachable. In the workplace, creativity usually involves innovation and problem solving. In order to determine if a job candidate has this soft skill or not, try devising a few clever test questions to be used during the interview.
3. Grace Under Pressure
Hemingway famously wrote, “Courage is grace under pressure.” So maybe this category should be called “Courage.” Either way, this soft skill can be very difficult to measure directly. Certainly you’re bound to see some version of grace under pressure in the interview situation. If that’s not enough, check in with a job candidate’s references for the inside scoop on their mettle.
3. Work Ethic
This soft skill should be on everybody’s list. But how do you know if a job candidate is a hard worker? Again, whatever you can’t glean from the resume and extract during the interview, try to get from the candidate’s references. They are your window in on what it’s actually like to work with this person, day in day out. References are sure to have a strong opinion on this quality.
Ideally, you want somebody who will forge ahead with vigor, but who also knows when to bend rather than break. Flexibility is often related to creativity and a positive attitude. Job candidates who can think outside the box and who believe things generally work out for the best will bring a welcome measure of flexibility to your firm.
Another hard quality to measure, especially if your hiring process is rather brief. But take a closer look at the candidate’s resume. Do they show evidence of having taken complex long-term projects to full completion? If so, there’s a good chance they not only have will but patience, too.
Recently, employers have started making reference to this quality by asking for “self-starters.” However you think of it, motivation is a key soft skill that often gets short shrift. But again, how do you measure it? Well, a good indicator of a candidate’s motivation is a well-rounded resume that includes numerous activities, hobbies, and interests. While a varied, active lifestyle is no guarantee the candidate will be motivated at work, it does show their level of curiosity and energy.
Is the candidate a team player? Most resumes foreground the candidate’s individual achievements. To find out how well they work with others, however, you’ll want to ask about group projects they’ve worked on in which they took a secondary role but still contributed. Once again, references can help you here. Candidates won’t always know how others perceive them, but a good reference guided by some pertinent questions can tell you if you’re dealing with a prima donna or a person who is as comfortable in a supporting role as they are taking the lead.
Soft skills are just as important in the evaluation of job candidates as hard skills. In fact, more and more experts argue that soft skills are the best indicator of how much of a contribution–in terms of productivity and workplace culture–you can expect from a new hire to your company. For more information and tips on the hiring process and workplace management, please visit Masiello Employment Services.