Hiring for Soft Skills

So-called soft skills are sometimes hard to quantify. Perhaps that’s why recruiters and hiring managers focus less on these skills in comparison to others.

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Nevertheless, soft skills – or lack of – have the potential to affect cultural fit, job performance, and employee retention.
So, how do you hire for soft skills?

Job Description

As with hard skills, begin by identifying the skills needed for the job. Then, include these skills as part of the job description. Doing so will allow you to understand performance in relation to soft skills.
When possible, don’t just name the skills; define them. Instead of “good communication skills,” for example, an employee should possess “the ability to communication effectively, verbally and in writing, with members of the team, including senior management.”
Similarly, instead of “strong time management skills,” the job may require that an employee “manage changing priorities, with attention to project deadlines.”
Likewise, “a positive attitude” might be defined as “enthusiasm for the work and a commitment to the company’s mission and goals.”

Job Ad

A job description that includes soft skills will serve as a guide when you create a job ad. (Remember, job postings are not job descriptions.)
As you create the job ad, decide which soft skills are must-haves. Then advertise for these skills, as you do for hard skills, required experience, and credentials.

Resume Screening

When reviewing resumes or job applications, make sure you look for soft skills. Whether you rely on technology or review documents manually, it’s important to consider your must-haves as you attempt to separate candidates from applicants.
Key words and phrases will help. So will details about job responsibilities. A person who has been promoted three times in four years may not say he or she has strong time management skills or a positive attitude, but it’s safe to make initial assumptions, based on this information, and delve into details later.

Interviewing and More

During the interview process, you can ask questions that offer insight into time management, attitude, communication, and other soft skills. Behavioral interview questions allow a job candidate to share details. A good interviewer, meanwhile, will know what the job requires and listen for evidence of particular soft skills.
A reference process that asks in-depth questions will confirm that a candidate has the soft skills you seek. Pre-employment testing can prove useful as well.
Finding job candidates with the right soft skills isn’t so hard—if you identify the soft skills required for the job, and give proper weight to these skills when recruiting and hiring.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.

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