Career Junction: Hiring for soft skills

The way we hire candidates has gone through many changes over time. One of them is the emphasis placed on soft skills. Soft skills refer to the experience that candidates have gained through years of working in their industry or learned behaviour, as opposed to skills learned through study. The emphasis has shifted from focusing only on a candidate’s degree and years of service to whether they would be a good culture fit and what kind of attitude they would bring to the company.

But screening for soft skills proves to be difficult for recruiters. You can’t determine a candidate’s soft skills through their CV or résumé and screening for them during the interview is equally as difficult. One solution is skills testing; a form of testing that doesn’t define whether the candidate has the right qualifications, but rather that they would be a good fit for the company and will bring new and unique skills to the table, such as effective communication and conflict management.

Candidates that hold degrees and certifications potentially have more soft skills, as they’ve taken part in group work, critical thinking, abstract thinking, etc. This means that they have developed soft skills without knowing it, however soft skills are also gained through years in the respective industries or sectors and will likely be found in candidates with extended and diverse experience.

How do you screen for soft skills?

One option is to provide possible candidates with a test that analyses abstract thinking as opposed to hard skills. There are many software options out there to help test soft skills and would also be a good investment to test current employees in order to determine their strengths and weaknesses. The CareerJunction online recruitment platform is an exceptionally helpful tool that allows recruiters to run through a list of skills – including soft skills if these have been included in the skills list or CV by the candidate, identify and filter the most relevant and appropriate for the vacancy, and view the CVs of candidates who match them. Software can also analyse this by means of scenarios and solutions to puzzles to determine what kind of soft skills the candidate will bring to the business. “You can also screen for soft skills during interviews by asking pointed questions that don’t relate to the person’s skills and experience, for example, asking the candidate how they would describe themselves in a single word, or asking about specific scenarios and how they would handle them,” explains Wiebka Cooper: Head of Operations for CareerJunction. “Our video recruiting solution enables interviewers to ask the candidates these questions which may be specific to the role, providing both verbal and non-verbal cues as to whether they’d be a good fit”.

Why is it important?

“Testing for soft skills, such as accountability, communication skills, leadership, and teamwork, will give you a good idea of whether or not the candidate would fit into the company’s culture,” says Cooper.

This shift in perspective will help you to find the right candidate for the company environment and the values that they will need to adhere to. If fixed working hours are important to you – such as in the retail or financial sectors – and your company, a candidate that prefers a more flexible working environment might not be a good fit. Similarly, soft skills will help you gain a better understanding of who the candidate is on a deeper level, rather than looking for the correct qualifications for the job. Sometimes, hiring an individual without the necessary qualifications, but the right soft skills will bring more value to your business if the candidate is eager to learn and will fit into the culture.

“It might seem like a strange way to hire new employees, but you will see the value and return of investment when you hire the candidate with the right soft skills. This doesn’t mean that qualifications should be ignored; some jobs require a specific level of qualification and shouldn’t be overlooked because of a candidate with better soft skills,” concludes Cooper.

It’s important to look for candidates that bring both soft skills and relevant qualifications and work experience to the table, as it will make integration of the employee into the new environment easier. Remember that you shouldn’t throw qualifications and years of experience to the side when looking for the ideal soft skills, but rather take an integrated approach. Soft skills are a learned behaviour, and so your company might be the right fit for the qualified candidate that has the potential to develop these skills.