With the rise of technological automation in the workforce, organizations must not underestimate the value of soft skills in the workplace and the impact of soft skills to the future of work.

According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report, 92% of HR professionals say soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills, with 80% recognizing that soft skills are increasingly important to company success.

The importance of prioritizing soft skills

HR pros, such as hiring managers and recruitment specialists, recognize the importance of prioritizing soft skills along with hard skills in the hiring process, with 94% identifying soft skills as an important trend for the future of hiring. It is critical for companies to make the right hiring decisions, as 89% believe that a bad hire that lacks soft skills can be costly to a business.

During the interview stage, assessing soft skills can be a challenge without a formalized process for skills assessment in place. Though recognizing their value, 57% of HR pros admit that it is a struggle to access soft skills accurately, and only 41% have a formal process in place to measure them.

Assessing soft skills in job candidates

When a candidate recounts their past work experiences, it is easy to assess their hard skills. However, getting candidates to demonstrate their soft skills at the interview stage presents a challenge. 

In fact, 68% of talent and recruitment professionals say the main way they assess soft skills is by picking up on social cues in interviews. Hiring managers can unknowingly resort to unconscious bias in their judgment of soft skills. In one’s perspective, a perky personality may signal that they would be a great team collaborator, and nerves may indicate a lack of confidence and leadership ability. However, observations of body language and other nonverbal cues can be misread. These initial judgments are not predictive of reality and negatively affects the accurate and consistent assessment of soft skills.

Here are some tips for assessing soft skills during the interview process:

Determine the soft skills valued most at your company

These soft skills are the ones shared by your top performers and the ones needed to address future challenges your organization will face.

Identify and define the skills needed for the role

Ensure that human resources, hiring managers, and recruiters agree on the soft skills required for a role and confirm a clear definition for the position.

Remove the potential for screening bias

When reviewing prospective candidates, there is room for bias in assessing talent from the submitted application to the pre-screening call. There are a number of online assessment tools that can assist with this process, such as Talentclick and Pymetrics, which offer personality tests to analyze the candidates’ behaviours and to find opportunity fit. The insights gathered can reveal aspects of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses they may not have been picked up initially.

Standardize your interview questions

Set your hiring team up for success with consistent and structured interviews, such as by standardizing interview questions. Interviewers should be trained to ask a set of behavioural and situational questions suited to the skills you are seeking. This will lessen the unconscious bias that may filter into your judgment and allow for easy comparisons in the evaluation stage.

Ask problem-solving questions to see soft skills in action

Ask the candidate to solve a problem with hard skills, and then introduce new constraints and conditions to see in action how they adapt to change, build on feedback, and communicate their approach. For example, ask the interviewee to describe how they would create the plan for a new project, and then challenge them by introducing obstacles and deadlines to their plan and timeline to see how they would handle the situation.

As HR places greater emphasis on human skills to identify their top job candidates, it is of importance to hiring managers and recruitment specialists to make improvements to how they measure soft skills when hiring.

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