Why Hiring for Soft Skills Might be Your Best Recruitment Strategy

There are certain types of people you just want to have on your team. People with lots of enthusiasm, positive energy, and a willingness to try new things. Unfortunately, these aren’t the kinds of things you can necessarily train for.

You may be good at bringing out the best in your employees, but at the end of the day, some of these qualities are more likely to be innate personality traits than teachable skills. So how do you go about finding new hires who are wired this way?

Appreciate the softer side

Soft skills are personal attributes and behaviors that enable people to interact effectively and harmoniously with others. And they can make all the difference in the world.

Let’s face it. You can be the smartest, most qualified employee or boss on the planet, but without soft skills, you could be rendered ineffective.

Soft skills include things like:

  • Attitude
  • Empathy
  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Self confidence
  • Adaptability
  • Creativity

These are the kinds of things that make for good leadership, positive work environments, better employee engagement, and high levels of productivity, teamwork, and collaboration.

It’s true that employees may be able to do their jobs without these attributes, but when they’re missing, your team will feel the effects. Organizations lacking in soft skills will experience more internal conflict, increased levels of frustration, decreased morale and engagement, and more frequent turnover. All of which adds up to unstable workplaces, lost revenue, and poor results.

Hiring should be hard. And soft.

Finding great employees isn’t easy. It takes the right processes to find the right people.

  • If you focus too much on speed and time to hire, you may not get it right the first time. Or the second. Or the third.
  • If you’re too meticulous, slow, and careful during the hiring process, your best candidates could get snatched up by other employers.
  • If you’re committed to finding an exact replica of the person who just left, you’re going to be constantly disappointed.

More importantly, if you focus purely on hard skills, you could easily end up with a group of talented employees who aren’t particularly good managers, communicators, or problem solvers. And nobody wants that.

How to hire for soft skills

Yes, hard skills are important, but soft skills are what allow people to successfully work together to get the job done— and have fun while doing it. Here’s how to make sure your new hires have what you need:

1. Identify the soft skills that are most critical

Depending on an employee’s given role, there may be particular soft skills that are more important than others. Project managers need good time management and communication skills. Marketing people need to be creative and adaptable. Supervisors need conflict resolution skills and a healthy dose of empathy. To maximize your hiring success, you’ll want to match the right skills to the right positions.

2. Incorporate them into your values and culture

Talking about soft skills and making them an integral part of your organization are two different things. If you commit to making certain attributes a critical part of who you hire and how you do business, individuals with those qualities will naturally be drawn to your company.

3. Pay attention

You can tell a lot about a person before a job interview even takes place. Does your candidate have good phone skills? Are they accommodating? Do they show up on time? Make eye contact? How did they treat the person who greeted them? With respect and gratitude or with a dismissive attitude? These things can be good indicators of the kind of person you’re hiring.

4. Use behavioral interview techniques

Storytelling is an effective way for candidates to demonstrate past behavior and soft skills. Asking questions like these can be a good way to assess a candidate’s typical behaviors and responses:

  • Tell me about a time when you solved a tough problem.
  • Give me an example of a conflict you experienced at work and how you resolved it.
  • Have you ever had to give someone negative feedback? How did you handle it?

5. Check those references

This may be a tempting step to skip, especially if you’re convinced you’ve found THE ONE. But don’t do it. The one time you neglect to call could be the one time you get a key piece of information that influences your decision.

Soft can be strong

Delicately nuanced soft skills may seem less valuable than clearly defined hard skills, but the most successful companies and hiring managers know better.

Soft skills make for strong teams. And strong teams make for healthy businesses, engaged employees, and very happy business owners. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get soft on hiring! 


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