Your clients or customers come to know your employees as the face and voice of your business. It’s imperative they communicate, interact, and build rapport with your customers. Doing so in a personable way is a coveted soft skill set. Not only do those skills impact external customers but also your internal culture. Employees understanding and empathizing with each other is critical to team building, camaraderie, and respect in the workplace.
Soft skills are the personal qualities, attitudes, and interpersonal skills needed for these solid interactions and relationships. Unlike hard or technical skills, which are relevant to specific duties and responsibilities, soft skills transfer to (and are sought after by) most professions and across all industries. Their vital role in success has recruiters everywhere accessing soft skills when meeting candidates for any job. A survey by ZipRecruiter found that 93% of employers find soft skills strongly influence their hiring decisions.
If soft skills are necessary, what should hiring managers look for, and how can they assess them?
Here is a list of our top 8 soft skills to look for in your next candidate.
1) Communication, communication, communication
Communication is the most apparent soft skill a candidate should possess. Most job descriptions include the need for communication skills. However, do you pay attention to all aspects of communication? How much tact does the candidate display? Can they provide examples of a time they had to persuade someone in a different direction? Do they show signs of active listening? What about their non-verbal communication? What is their body language saying? Can they communicate in a way that gives you a feeling of rapport with them?
Change is an inevitable part of many businesses. Between technological advances, organizational changes and improvements, or even unexpected events like the COVID-19 pandemic, employees need to adapt and sometimes quickly. You want to hire employees who can embrace change and adapt rapidly. Ask questions that elicit examples of flexibility or the ability to pivot with a necessary change. Find out if they’ve ever had to adjust quickly to a new way of working or thinking, whether with circumstances, budget, or team members.
3) Team player tendencies
Every manager covets a strong team player. You want an employee who can work with many different personalities and effectively contribute to the team’s success despite inevitable obstacles or challenges. Maybe even someone who motivates others too. So, how can you tell if your candidate is an ultimate team player? Ask them to give examples of times they contributed to a team successfully and listen to how they describe their contributions and those of others. Were they open to the ideas of other team members? Do they acknowledge the team’s efforts or are they concentrating on their role in the success? Did they accept and value feedback? How did they deal with personality conflicts or difficult conversations or decisions?
4) Leadership potential
Identify candidates who show leadership potential. After all, it’s much easier to promote leaders from within than to hire from outside. Find employees who can direct, encourage, motivate, and inspire people. Ask your candidates to give examples of times they’ve led a project. Look for examples of communication, conflict management, and coaching or mentoring. Excellent leaders do more than get others to complete tasks. They’re instrumental in helping people reach their full potential and creating a positive work culture.
5) Problem-solving skills
Every business, team, and person will encounter career challenges. How well do your candidates deliver effective and efficient solutions to those challenges? You should employ people who can quickly identify the problem and provide a quality solution. The easiest fix isn’t always the best long-term solution. Do they see the big picture when viewing problems? Do they demonstrate critical thinking skills? Are they able to display creative, resourceful, and logical reasoning?
6) An eagerness to learn
Our world is constantly changing. Learning new things is inevitable. When you have a team member who desires to learn new things (and is willing to adapt), you’ll more easily keep up with those changes. Find candidates consistently identifying new learning opportunities—those who acknowledge their areas of weakness and want to work on them. A person who likes to deepen and add to their existing skill set is valuable. Identify those candidates by asking them to tell you about something they’ve recently learned. Or better yet, something they learned and then turned around and taught to someone else.
7) A strong work ethic
Your candidate can have all the skills in the world, but if they come with a poor work ethic, they’ll most likely fail. What does a strong work ethic look like? These candidates are punctual, reliable, produce high-quality work, and consistently meet deadlines. They can follow instructions and work with little supervision. While you can try and draw examples of work ethic out of a candidate, this may be where you need to rely more heavily on their references. Past behavior in this area will be highly indicative of their work ethic. Does your candidate use their time wisely? Do they ask for direction when needed and deliver consistent results? Have they exhibited dependability in the past? Are they on time for work and meetings? Do they do what it takes to get the job done?
8) Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is a person’s ability to understand and respond to feelings and emotions. People with a high EQ easily build constructive relationships with customers and colleagues. They also tend to be strong leaders. While EQ is more difficult to measure than IQ, you can get a strong sense of emotional intelligence by drawing out how a candidate deals with situations that go wrong. You may also assess how well they control their thoughts, accept and grow from criticism, praise others, motivate themselves, and keep commitments. For more information on this topic, check out our article – How to Assess Emotional Intelligence During an Interview.
While assessing candidates’ technical skills is essential, pay attention to soft skills, which are often more difficult to teach. These skills, when used regularly, are vital to employee success. Hiring employees with the right combination of both skills will make your company more efficient and productive.