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How to Assess Soft Skills

Soft skills are the non-technical skills that impact how people work. These are interpersonal skills relating to communication, relationship-management and problem-solving. In today’s environment, hard skills and technical qualifications aren’t enough to determine success. Many employers value flexibility and having a solid set of soft skills speaks to the adaptability of the candidate. At the end of the day, these transferable skills are critical for culture fit and job performance.

Adaptability, creative-thinking, good communication, integrity, problem-solving, responsibility, teamwork, time-management and work ethic are some of the soft skills that interviewers and companies’ value.

Hard skills are learned capabilities acquired through education, practice and repetition, software and tools. Industry practices and language can be taught. Hard skills give the employer an understanding of the candidate’s level of expertise. They are easily measurable through certifications and experiences.

However, soft skills are not quantifiable. That makes it difficult to accurately identify and assess these skills during the early stages of the onboarding process. A hiring manager will narrow down the candidate pool based on hard skills and interviews. Yet, soft skills are differentiating factors in the final decision. According to a LinkedIn survey, the vast majority of recruiters suggest they value soft skills as opposed to hard skills, while citing the lack of soft skills is the reason new hires typically don’t work out.

As these skills aren’t quantifiable, gauging them requires a certain and proactive approach. When meeting face-to-face in an interview setting, soft skills are easier to identify through the candidate’s personality. However, they are still difficult to accurately verify what soft sills the candidate truly possesses.

There are solutions to accurately assessing soft skills. Employers should create job descriptions with carefully though-out skills to provide a clear expectation of what the job requires. Having these laid out expectations from the outset is essential. It avoids interviewers judging soft skills subjectively and biasedly towards applicants who possess similar soft skills as them, which can result in an echo chamber dynamic at the organization and limit different perspectives.

When inquiring about soft skills, employers should be deliberate in how the questions are asked. Yes or no questions can lead to inaccurate insights. There isn’t a guarantee the candidates are being honest. They may be overstating qualities to appeal to the perspective employer. Open-ended questions encourage specific examples of these skills.

Other alternatives can include asking the candidates rank their soft skills from strongest to weakest. The candidate will be forced to reflect on their soft skills in relative terms and honest insights. This will give a realistic look at the candidate’s abilities and highlights the areas where they need additional support.

The interpersonal skills are essential for success in any role but difficult to gauge due to their subjective nature. Candidates can be dishonest, while interviewers can perpetuate their own bias. There are tools and strategies available to accurately assess candidates. It’s an essential component to recruiting.

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