Improve Your Recruitment Strategy: Hiring for Soft Skills

Does your recruitment strategy including hiring for soft skills? If not, you should reconsider your tactics. Receiving a resume with all the right skills on it can be quite impressive, but this does not tell you anything about the candidate’s work ethic, creativity, communication skills, problem solving capabilities, or other traits that, coupled with a strong skill set, make them a good hire.

Common soft skills employers desire

Communication
Communicating, whether it is verbal, in written, or through body language, is an important skill. Employees need to be able to clearly and efficiently express their thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
Teamwork
Being able to effectively collaborate, work well with others, build relationships, manage conflict, and be a team player is crucial in many work environments.
Work Ethic
In order to perform their duties, an employee has to show up, work hard, and be willing to go the extra mile. Managers don’t have time to micromanage every move an employee makes or walk them through every task. It is crucial to find a candidate that takes initiative and does the job right the first time.
Adaptability
Change is common in most work environments. Being able to keep in an open mind and move forward with new responsibilities, challenges, and other changes makes a good employee.
Problem Solving
Problems of all shapes and sizes arise no matter what the position is. Having a good attitude, flexibility, creativity, and reasoning skills are helpful in overcoming challenges as they arise.
Company Culture
Sometimes employers place great value on that elusive quality, ‘the right fit’. Will they work well with existing employees? Do they share the same core values the company does?

How to Hire for Soft Skills

Try these techniques to help you hire new talent that is able to perform the skills necessary for the job, while displaying the soft skills needed to make a positive impact in your company’s environment.
1. Add Soft Skills to Your Job Descriptions
For every position, create a job description that not only contains the key hard skills required, but also the necessary soft skills. Once you identify the desired soft skill behaviors for the position, name them and describe them. Add these skills to the basic job requirements so candidates know exactly what is expected of new hires. If you must hire someone without the proper soft skills, have a plan in place that allows you to address the gaps starting immediately, just like a plan you have for training employees without the necessary hard, or technical skills.
2. Recruit for Soft Skills
Look for candidates from sources that are well known for their strong soft skills. If you are hiring from training programs and schools, do your research to find which ones value soft skills as much as you do. Also consider those who regularly volunteer or have run a marathon, or someone who has been a school teacher or camp counselor or is part of an athletic team. Chances are, they will posses many, if not all, of the soft skills that are most important to your company.
3. Look for Red Flags
No matter how desperate you are to hire new talent, be cautious of red flags. What if a candidate shows up late for an interview, or has typos in their resume, or seem disengaged at the interview? These things should all raise a red flag telling you not to hire the candidate, no matter how great their resume looks or what their hard skills (technical skills) are.
4. Build a selection process that places a high priority on soft skills
Place a heavy emphasis on the key soft skills of the position. You can do this by immediately sharing vivid descriptions of the hardest aspects of the job. For example, if your company needs engineers who are quite persistent, tell them that weekends and long hours are in the near future. The candidates that remain interested, they are the ones that deserve a chance.
5. Consider Aptitude Testing
Choose a research-based test that offers a quick baseline of the candidate’s aptitude in soft skills. As you consider which test to use, make sure it’s rather quick to administer and gives you the information you want. Know what skills you are testing for and have a way of measuring how the candidate performs. Does the position require oral skills? Ask the candidate to give a short, mock-presentation. Does the position require teamwork? Come up with a theoretical scenario and ask the candidate what they would do in that situation. Their answers will tell you a lot.
Perform Behavioral Interviewing
The best way to learn about an applicant is to use behavioral interviewing. Ask the interviewee to tell you a story, such as how they solved a problem at work. As they talk, listen and focus on their use of desired soft skills.
It’s much easier to train new employees in technical skills and company procedures, then it is to train them in soft skills. Learning to recruit for the necessary soft skills and then hire candidates who possess them will benefit your company.

Take a ‘Test Drive’

Want to learn a little more about your candidate?

  • Take the candidate on a tour of your office / facilities;
  • Introduce the candidate to current employees;
  • Engage them in (seemingly) non-interview related conversation.

After the interview, consider:

  • Did the candidate ask any questions? Were they relevant? Did they show any initiative? Did they display any prior knowledge or curiosity about your business?
  • Ask your employees what they thought about the candidate. Could they see themselves working together?
  • Did the candidate display any behaviour or personality traits that would make you think they would be a right for your company culture? Do they have a sense of humour or fun? Are they social? Did they display any personality or qualities that are relevant to the prospective position?

Want to learn more? Learn more about hiring for soft skills here or download our eBook on Core Competency Based Hiring.