Screening Candidates for Soft Skills | ExactHire

Screening Applicants for Soft Skills

Soft skills are interpersonal skills that enable you to communicate and interact. Soft skills emanate from your personality or your attributes. These skills help you interact effectively and pleasantly with others, enabling you to navigate complex relationships.

Soft skills are critical in the workplace. That’s because organizations are looking for individuals who are not only good at their work, but who can interact, connect, collaborate, and manage across diverse cultural lines. Job candidates with good soft skills can excel in contemporary workplaces because they can learn and adapt.

Soft Skills Examples

Some key examples of soft skills include:

  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Listening
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Decision making
  • Critical thinking
  • Adaptability
  • Stress management
  • Leadership
  • Creativity
  • Organization
  • Persuasion
  • Resourcefulness

Soft Skill Benefits

There’s no doubt that when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, most people who work outside their homes found themselves thrust into the work-from-home lifestyle. This unexpected change brought about anxiety around what was to happen next. Most employees found themselves wondering about the murky future of their jobs and workplaces.

Indeed, while it’s difficult to predict what the future holds, there’s no doubt that soft skills remain a key highlight in business leadership. Organizations that remained intact and successful throughout the pandemic were those whose employees and leadership had strong soft skills to survive and adapt.

Knowing the roles that soft skills play in contemporary workplaces, there’s no excuse for employers to ignore the many benefits that soft skills bring. Let’s delve deep into those benefits.

  • Improved adaptability.  A key highlight for all competitive organizations is that their workforce and leadership are adaptable and flexible. The pandemic has revealed first-hand how the most adaptable organizations can get through while others drown or close doors. While adaptability is not new to businesses, it’s become altogether critical in recent years. Adaptability means that employees have strong critical thinking skills to pull through a crisis. Adaptability also implies that the workforce has collaborative and meaningful research skills to survive difficult situations.
  • Improved feelings of belonging. Soft skills help nurture feelings of belonging, often thanks to leaders who can practice active listening. There’s no doubt that work-from-home directives have led to increased feelings of loneliness and isolation for many employees. And as months continue to go by with employees unable to return to the workplace, listening and communication skills are becoming increasingly important for leaders. Therefore, leaders who have developed soft skills in this area are better prepared in adapting to changes in the work environment, and are able to make distanced employees feel more at home through communication, listening, and interaction skills.
  • Excellent communication. Excellent organization-wide communication is a critical element of leadership. Organization-wide communication captures many different types of communication, including how we communicate the words we speak, written communication, verbal cues, and even Zoom meetings. Although the importance of communication in the workplace cannot be overstressed, still almost 60% of employees report not receiving clear instructions at work. Soft skills provide management personnel with excellent communication skills to convey work requirements.
  • Enhanced teamwork. As the pandemic unfolded, most organizations likely sent out an internal memo reading “we’re all in this together.” Perhaps this message was reinforced throughout and after the pandemic. Well, why send out such a message? The answer is simple: to promote feelings of togetherness and empathy. Soft skills are critical as they help individuals and teams to overcome difficult and trying situations.

Examples of Jobs that Require Soft Skills

Organizations of all sizes and complexity require different soft skills. Soft skills are sought by organizations of all sectors and industries – from manufacturing to mining, sales, administrative, healthcare, education, technology, and retail.

But soft skills are especially required, and vital, in the following industries:

  • Communication services
  • Information technology
  • International relations
  • Healthcare
  • Real-estate
  • Retail
  • Hospitality
  • Finance and accounting
  • Law
  • Human resources
  • Business

How do you Test for Soft Skills?

There are many ways to assess applicant skills, including sift skills. Some of the ways are discussed below:

  1.  Watch for physical and social cues. One way to assess soft skills is to look out for physical and social cues. Now, we are not asking you to spy on your candidates when they’re reporting for interviews. Rather, we’re asking you to examine their behavior and interactions with other people when they arrive at the workplace. Do they greet the receptionist – do they talk or interact with other candidates, and are they curious to learn more about the work? All these things are critical in assessing soft skills in job candidates.
  1.  Inquire from the candidate about important soft skills. Ask the candidate what core skills they perceive as important. Instead of telling the candidate the soft skills you think are crucial for the job, inquire from them about what skills they think are crucial. At the very least, this inquiry will help you know how well your candidates understand the job. And if you’re lucky enough, their list of soft skills will likely match yours. So, actively interacting and obtaining feedback from your job candidates is a great way of learning about their core skills.
  1.  Ask for scenarios and examples. Ask candidates to demonstrate scenarios where soft skills are used. Now that you’ve obtained their list of  top core skills, ask them for examples where they’ve seen or used these skills in action. Get your candidates talking about their previous work experiences and look for what they were most impressed with. By constantly talking and engaging with candidates, you can identify their soft skills based on their previous performance and experience.
  1.  Test them using job simulations. Test candidates through a real-life scenario to identify their soft skills. If you ask a candidate whether they think they are a good leader, you’ll get a “yes” nine out of ten times. Put candidates to the test. Create a situation or a real-life job audition and see if the candidates take the lead. Also, look at whether those who take the lead listen to others and take feedback seriously. It’s only by simulating job duties that you can obtain genuine feedback on your candidates’ soft skills.

Why Test for these Skills?

Testing for soft skills helps you evaluate job candidates not based on their technical or hard skills, but based on their ability to adapt and cope. Soft skills provide an end-to-end view of candidates, providing an extra layer of information beyond just experience and qualification. So, testing for these skills provides you with a comprehensive understanding of prospective job candidates, streamlining and improving your selection process.

Soft Skills Assessment Questions:

Most talent acquisition managers create assessment questions that help them evaluate soft skills. Some common soft skill assessment questions include:

  1. When people are arguing, I can understand all their viewpoints whether or not I agree with them (T/F).
  2. I can make sense of complex and ambiguous situations (T/F)
  3. When someone speaks to me, I think of open-ended questions to ask them (T/F)
  4. When someone talks to me when I’m doing something, I stop and give the person full attention (T/F)
  5. I quickly de-escalate myself when arguments become serious (T/F)
  6. Discuss a time you had to manage your team through a hard situation…
  7. How do you prioritize your time and tasks when you have too much to handle?
  8. What’s the most serious problem you’ve ever solved at the workplace?
  9. Tell me your most challenging situation and your solution to it?
  10. Discuss positive contributions you’ve made in school and beyond…

Why do Job Candidates Need these Skills?

Job candidates need to have good soft skills to excel in what they will be asked to do on the job. Training for these skills can be very difficult and time-consuming–more so than training for hard skills. And by only having technical skills, it’s impossible to meet the changing work requirements. Job candidates who bring soft skills with them are better prepared for changes, enabling them to learn and adapt on the go.

Here again is a quick summary of the key reasons job candidates need these vital skills:

  • Customer service. Improved customer service based on their day-to-day interactions with customers
  • Employee self-confidence. Interaction and communication increase an employee’s confidence in themselves and their hard skills.
  • Better client retention rates. Employees who make clients feel valued and respected create return business for themselves and their organizations.
  • Higher job satisfaction. Communication, listening, interaction, and negotiation skills improve job satisfaction because employees can openly talk, be listened to, and feel as if they belong.
  • Customer loyalty. Communication and persuasion skills can increase loyalty in customers, especially when customers feel their pain, concerns, and issues are taken into account.
  • Better team dynamics. Employees can interact and collaborate with others and improve relationships through teamwork.
  • Greater adaptability. Core skills like listening, communication, curiosity, and feedback provide greater adaptability to employees who know how to use them.

So, if you’re looking for the perfect candidate for your open position, soft skills are critical. Indeed, the best hiring processes are balanced in identifying and evaluating a combination of soft and hard skills.

To learn more about how to test the core skills of your candidates, or how an ATS can do it for you, contact ExactHire to learn more!

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