According to LinkedIn’s 2017 Global Recruiting Trends Report, soft skills assessments are one of the most important trends that will define the future of recruiting.
In fact, 44% of respondents to a survey by Adecco Staffing USA identified a lack of soft skills as the biggest proficiency gap in the U.S. workforce. Two-thirds of hiring managers would favor candidates with strong soft skills even if their technical skills were lacking. But what does that mean?
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are non-technical abilities needed to perform well in a role. In addition to possessing the knowledge and abilities required for the specific role, employees in general should be proficient in communication, teamwork, problem-solving, organization, adaptability, initiative, etc. Even employees who are adept in their specific field and subject matter can struggle in the workplace if they don’t have the interpersonal skills to work well with others, or their self-management skills are inadequate to put their technical abilities to good use.
How can you assess soft skills?
Fortunately, recruiters and hiring managers have multiple options for evaluating a candidate’s soft skills.
- Test them: Online testing can directly evaluate proficiency in soft skills. You can also test applicants in subtler and unexpected ways. LinkedIn describes how companies like Zappos systematically observe job candidates when they may not realize it, e.g., when they’re interacting with receptionists, drivers, and others. Other companies, like Heineken and Charles Schwab, actually stage problematic situations to which the job candidate must respond.
- Ask them: Incorporate questions about soft skills into interviews. You can ask the interviewees to describe or even rate their soft skill proficiencies. You might also present them with scenarios they are likely to encounter in the job that would require the use of soft skills and ask them how they would solve or address that situation (e.g., how would they handle a disagreement with a coworker).
- Ask others: You can also ask about the candidate’s soft skills when speaking with references or the people who referred the applicant.
Do soft skills really make a difference?
Research from the Hay Group revealed that managers who incorporate a range of soft talents into their leadership approach can increase their team’s performance by as much as 30%. Think of it this way: the hallmarks of great businesses – a high degree of innovation, excellent customer service, making a difference in communities – all depend enormously on a person’s ability to self-manage, work well with others, and communicate clearly.
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