The Importance of Measuring Soft Skills

As an employer, navigating the turbulent waters of the recruiting process presents new learning opportunities every day. After hopeful candidates submit their resumes for review, their level of experience is typically the determining factor behind whether or not they qualify for an interview. Employers quickly scan a resume to ascertain the type of degree or certification they possess, as well as if their work history aligns with the position they applied for. While evaluating professional qualities are essential to the hiring process, most hiring managers overlook the importance of soft skills.

They Look Great on Paper, but Do Their Soft Skills Measure Up? 

A piece of paper alone, cannot adequately conclude if a candidate has the type of soft skills that are in harmony with your company’s culture, values, and needs. You may not rate these qualifications with the same degree of urgency as their experience level, but you wouldn’t want to hire an individual and upon their first day, discover that they do not integrate well with your company’s culture. You’ll be helping yourself in the long run by taking a few additional steps to learn if a candidate has these strengths.

Founder, chairman, and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, personally interviewed each applicant when the company was first established in order to determine if they were a good fit for his vision. Similarly, Boxed CEO, Chieh Huang, prefers to interview each candidate, stating “more so than just that resume and that pedigree, we actually look for hunger. I try to elicit how hungry this person is and how much endurance they have.”  

In your quest to uncover where a particular candidate’s soft skills lie, here are some pointers on what to look for. 

Always Check References

An optimal way to screen for soft skills is by checking the individual’s references. After verifying a candidate’s background and collecting the necessary reference information, digging for answers can flow naturally. The internal culture of your company will ultimately dictate the types of questions you ask the individual’s references – Did they take initiative in the workplace? Did they collaborate with colleagues? If you’re on the fence about a potential employee, checking a reference can really help solidify your decision.

What Would You Do If It Happened to You?

Occasionally, you’ll run into a biased referral. They may have had a close relationship with the individual or they simply want to help them secure a new position, and this means information will be skewed in order to paint the candidate in a desirable light. In light of this, there are other ways to screen for soft skills that will help validate the reference checks. For example, while interviewing the candidate, provide them with a specific problem or situation that will require them to draw on their critical thinking and creativity skills. Assessing how the individual would react under certain circumstances will provide a substantial amount of insight regarding their character and how they behave under pressure. 

Try It on for Size

A practice many employers are beginning to integrate into the hiring process is inviting a potential candidate into the office for a “dry run.” You can have them work a full day with your team, observe how they interact with others, and determine if they’re capable of performing the necessary functions of the job. While the candidate will undoubtedly be on their best behavior, you’ll still be able to gauge how they conduct themselves when immersed in the role. 

When in Doubt, Test It out

There are also online tests that can be administered to determine someone’s soft skill set. This may seem a bit extreme, but  soft skills are an imperative part of preserving the success and balance of your company’s culture. More and more companies are using their culture as a source of attraction for potential candidates and taking the necessary measures to determine if someone coexists well with your community. This goes for recruiters as well; you don’t want to submit a candidate to a client and receive negative feedback because you failed to assess the individual’s soft skills.

Why Soft Skills Are Important

Just as important as a degree or years of experience, soft skills can also determine a person’s success within a company. As the hiring manager, you want to ensure the potential employee will fulfill the needs of the role in a manner that’s conducive to your company’s success. Once their resume matches all the necessary experience requirements, take a few extra steps to gauge if the candidate would be a good fit for the company’s culture. This bit of due diligence will better equip your company with employees who align with your short & long term goals.

Robert Sartori Written by:

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