Soft skills, such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork, have become increasingly important in the job market as the demand for them has grown. In the past, technical skills and on-the-job experience were the primary factors considered when hiring for a role. On the other hand, soft skills were more of a "nice to have." Not anymore.
A LinkedIn research article states that 92% of talent acquisition professionals now consider soft skills to be just as important as hard skills or more important than them. Also, 89% stated that whenever a hire does not work out, it is because they typically lack the necessary soft skills.
As a recruiter, you need to integrate soft skills testing into the hiring process so that your candidates can form positive workplace relationships and display the attributes necessary to excel at their roles. In this blog post, we outline what soft skills are and why you should be prioritizing them:
So, what are soft skills?
Soft skills include the attributes, character traits, people skills, and communication prowess that enable a candidate to perform optimally in a shared workplace environment and achieve the desired job outcomes when combined with relevant hard skills. The soft skills typically desired in most roles in the workplace include:
- Work ethic
- Team skills
- Critical thinking
- Leadership skills
- Conflict resolution
- Time management
- Emotional quotient
- Communication skills
- Decision-making ability
Soft skills are often hard to quantify, making them harder to test for and rank candidates. They are, nonetheless, recognizable when they exist and are highly desired by leaders and should be considered one of the most important hiring priorities.
Soft skills in the workplace are in demand.
Yes, that is right - a significant reason is companies wanting to add additional value to their business. According to a Wonderlic study, 93% of hiring managers consider soft skills as "very important" or "essential" during the hiring process.
Furthermore, according to The Wall Street Journal, competition among employees with a combination of strong, soft skills, such as the ability to communicate effectively with customers and efficiently manage cross-departmental projects, is at an all-time high.
So it is not surprising to see that about one-third of the skills required in job listings are "baseline" or soft skills. Even in highly technical fields such as IT and healthcare, more than 25% of the skill requirements are for these types of skills.
How soft skills play a role in the workplace
The difficulty in quantifying soft skills meant that they were traditionally overlooked when conducting interviews. However, recruiters nowadays recognize and seek the value that strong soft skills bring to the company. The main reasons soft skills matter include the following:
1. A boost in sales
A sales team with excellent soft skills is better equipped to negotiate with the end clients effectively. They can build personal connections while maintaining a professional demeanor. Additionally, when employees possess good communication skills, they can identify and address customers' needs, resulting in more successful sales.
2. Employee retention
Investing in the soft skills of employees demonstrates that companies value their professional growth, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and loyalty. This ultimately results in a higher retention rate.
3. Improved productivity
Productivity is vital to reaching team goals and keeping everyone in sync - someone with brilliant job skills but a disorganized approach may not be the best fit for the team. Traits like time management and communication ensure that the results are delivered as and when they are needed and that the team is always in the loop.
4. Positive transformation
Effective communication is crucial for any company's efficiency, and it should not be limited to just within teams but also across departments to ensure alignment of goals.
Clear communication enables employees to understand the challenges faced by the business and can lead to the development of innovative solutions that drive positive change. Miscommunication, on the other hand, can cause confusion and result in significant losses for the company.
5. Greater self-confidence
Employees with stronger soft skills tend to be more confident. When they are confident, they can present their ideas with greater assurance and handle workplace issues more gracefully. These are essential assets to any team, so recruiters are always on the lookout for candidates who are sure of themselves.
6. Greater networking ability
Candidates with soft skills are likely to be able to form connections with others, pursue leads respectfully yet tenaciously and bring new business in. Not only that - such candidates serve as company representatives and boost their reputation.
Therefore, recruiters pay special attention to communication and people skills for client-facing roles, as these are often what tip the scale in corporate deals.
7. A complement to hard skills
Soft skills are a critical complement to technical skills - no job can be performed on hard skills alone. An engineer might be an excellent coder. But they will have difficulty developing apps in a team if they are poor collaborators.
Similarly, a business graduate may have excellent product and marketing knowledge, but they will struggle in a sales role if they lack communication skills.
8. Stronger leadership potential
Soft skills like active listening, decision-making, conflict resolution, and communication are hallmarks of any good leader. Those who embody these are thus strong contenders to lead the team.
9. Better workplace relationships
Employees have to work together for eight hours a day, five days a week. Those who can easily navigate multiple professional relationships and display kindness and empathy at the workplace can boost morale for everyone. Everyone deserves respect, and everyone deserves to be heard. Candidates who uphold are considered valuable assets for the team and are more inclined towards bagging the job.
10. Indicative of long-term interest
Companies always prefer candidates who will likely stick around with the company for a long time. Therefore, the determining choice between two equally qualified and personable candidates might be their likelihood of staying on. Traits like motivation and commitment are good indicators of this, as well as the sincerity with which they talk about the job during the interview.
11. Measure of team spirit and ability to work together
Even in individual contributor roles, some amount of teamwork is critical. Recruiters will thus look for candidates with soft skills like adaptability, active listening skills, friendliness, and open communication. Having superior team dynamics is critical to efficiency as well as maintaining company morale.
Assessing candidates: identifying soft skills for business success
Soft skills have become increasingly important in the hiring process as they play a crucial role in a company's effectiveness. While technical knowledge and computational skills were once considered the primary requirements for jobs, soft skills are now regarded as essential and, in some cases, even more important. Here is how you can identify soft skills when hiring:
1. Ask behavior-based interview questions
Behavior-based interview questions can be used to evaluate a candidate's soft skills. These questions provide insight into how the candidate responds to certain situations or challenges. Instead of starting with "do you," interviewers should try starting with "what are your thoughts on" or "how would you."
Some examples of behavior-based questions to ask for technical positions include: how the candidate develops relationships with coworkers and supervisors, a problem they solved creatively, and a time they had to deal with a difficult person.
Furthermore, asking about the candidate's ideal work environment and methods of communication, as well as how they think their soft skills will help them in the role they are interviewing for, can provide valuable information.
2. Look for verbal cues in the candidate
Good communication skills are a key indicator of whether a candidate will be a good fit within a company. During the interview, observe whether the candidate is actively listening, interrupting, and paying attention. Verbal cues, such as whether they use "I" or "we" more often, also provide insight into their communication style and team dynamics.
3. Do your reference checks
Checking with references can provide a candid view of the candidate's work history and soft skills. A SkillSurvey study found that coworkers often give feedback on soft skills during reference checks, while managers focus on tasks related to hard skills.
Asking coworkers about the candidate's relationship with their coworkers and management, as well as advice for managing the candidate, can provide valuable information.
Overall, assessing a candidate's soft skills can provide valuable information about their potential fit within a company and their ability to drive positive change.
Over to you
As we can see, the benefits of investing in a team that's strong on soft skills are manifold. Good ways to screen for these during the interview process include asking questions on how the candidate would approach a creative challenge, how they have resolved interpersonal conflict, what they would do in a leadership/decision-making scenario, and so on.
In particular, ask them how they think their specific set of soft skills will help them perform the role optimally. References can also provide a good idea of how the candidate demonstrated soft skills at the previous workplace.
Utilize a user-friendly assessment platform, such as Adaface, to evaluate candidates based on their soft skills and abilities. It will help you identify the key personality traits to ensure a good cultural fit for your company.
Above all, use your own judgment to determine whether someone has what it takes to not only deliver on job metrics but also thrive with others and in the work culture. When you have a team of people who can do both, your company has the greatest chance of success.