Soft Skills and Strategies to Assess Them

April 1st, 2019 by ifi-admin

In LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Trends survey and report, more than half (57%) of the companies surveyed said they struggled to assess soft skills. At the same time, 80% said soft skills were increasingly important to company success, with 92% reporting that soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills. In the age of automation and AI, workers need to possess creativity, adaptability, and collaboration skills. And if they don’t, they may become the dreaded “bad hire” that not only wastes time and money, but also jeopardizes company productivity, quality and reputation.

What are the top soft skills sought?

According to the Global Talent Report, the most sought after soft skills are:

  • Creativity
  • Persuasion
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Time-Management

Creativity is the ability to solve problems in original ways, and is a skill that machines can’t easily replicate. The McKinsey study on automation predicts that the demand for creativity will rise sharply by 2030 as automation transforms industry.

Effective teamwork demands skillful evaluation of team members’ viewpoints, approaches to work, and reward-responsiveness. Here’s where persuasion and collaboration come into play.

Shifting skill requirements amidst the lightning pace of technological advance creates the need for adaptability and strict time management to perform in agile environments.

Ways to Assess Soft Skills

Sixty-eight percent of the Global Talent report’s respondents said the main way they assess soft skills is by picking up on social cues in interviews. The problem, the report points out, is that perceptions aren’t predictive, and can often be unconsciously biased, hence the need for an accurate and consistent method of assessment.

Additional methods reported include the following:

  • 75% of companies surveyed rely most heavily on behavioral questions to assess soft skills
  • 70% read body language during the interview
  • 58% rely on situational questions
  • 31% use projects
  • 17% use technical assessments

“Behavioral and situational questions can be effective if they are structured and consistently applied,” said Kay Durkin, founder of Phoenix Partners. “However, these types of questions can also elicit rehearsed responses.”

Durkin, like many successful Independent Recruiters, has long been a proponent of screening for soft skills, because she knows first-hand that candidates with the strongest soft skills are the most likely to be retained by the client company and advance their careers.

Tips for Better Soft Skill Assessment

1. Define the soft skills most valued at your company by profiling your most successful employees. Just as a recruiter does, review your most successful hires to see what traits they possess and help identify the right set of soft skills for your company and/or specific roles.

2. Explore online tools to pre-screen candidates. Consider using pre-hire neuro assessments such as HireVue, which uses AI to analyze recorded interviews and identify soft skills. Game-Based assessments such as Plum, Koru and Pymetrics also use AI to measure candidates’ soft skills more systematically. Job Fit testing can also be added to the process to help understand the candidate’s strong preferences in work environment and culture.

3. Standardize and score behavioral interview questions. – To eliminate bias and to give a deeper dimension to your behavioral interview questions, standardize them so that the same set of soft-skill questions are used, in the exact same order, for every interview. Develop a scoring method and weight it accordingly within the overall candidate score.

4. Create more ways to witness soft skills in action. While the resume, cover letter, and initial screening interviews give an initial sense of some candidate soft skills, such as communication, they don’t give you a true glimpse of the candidate in action. Create opportunities to witness a candidate’s soft skills by assigning a project, arranging a team meeting for the candidate to lead with current department members, or having the candidate troubleshoot a real problem experienced by your company.

5. Leverage references to determine a soft-skill assessment. – When contacting a candidate’s references, ask them to rank a candidate on soft-skill traits. Ask the kinds of questions that will help you specifically assess individual soft skills, such as the following:

  • Can you describe the candidate’s relationships with his/her co-workers, superiors, and direct reports?
  • What has he/she done in his/her position that was unique or highly valuable to the organization and/or department?
  • How is he/she different from others with whom you have worked?
  • How would you describe his/her management style?
  • What sets him/her apart from others in the same capacity?

6. Nurture candidates early in their careers. – Engaging prospective candidates earlier in their careers and hiring for potential is one way that top companies develop stellar teams. It is tempting to want to hire the marginal employee from other companies and departments, but “growing your own” gives you better access to the skills you seek in the long run.

Need help finding candidates with superior soft skills? Talk to Phoenix Partners.

Phoenix Partners, Inc. • 638 Overhill Road • Suite 200 • Ardmore, PA 19003 • Phone: (610) 649-1909
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