Did you know that soft skills dominate job requirements in today’s business landscape? Sure, many employers look for hard skills, whether specialized or technical. However, nothing beats employees with good attributes:

  • Are they effective communicators?
  • Do they have good relationships with colleagues?
  • Are they critical thinkers or problem-solvers?
  • Do they manage their time efficiently and effectively?

When screening and hiring people, asking the questions above is best. Look for candidates who have the soft skills needed for the jobs required by your company.

But how do you identify and evaluate tangible talents in your candidates? Follow the crucial steps below as part of your recruitment process.

How To Determine and Assess the Applicants’ Soft Skills

Soft skills relate to how employees work and interact with colleagues in the workplace. Consider how they communicate with their colleagues, manage their time, solve work problems and lead people. These all reflect their soft skills.

To further understand, distinguish soft skills from hard skills.

  • Soft skills are non-technical abilities like communication, interpersonal and leadership skills.
  • Hard skills are specialized or technical, such as digital marketing, content writing, web designing, graphic designing and IT programming.

It’s easy to see employers and recruiters go after candidates with specialized or technical skills. However, soft abilities and attributes can also make a difference in the workplace.

Take it from LinkedIn’s interesting statistics:

Over 90% of talent professionals believe soft skills are transforming the workplace. About 92% say they matter as much or more than hard skills in recruitment. Likewise, 80% say they are vital to business success.

Unfortunately, 57% of businesses find it hard to assess soft skills. So, how do you identify and evaluate the soft skills of your job applicants? Follow the crucial steps below:

1. Start by Listing the Soft Skills You Need

The first thing to do is to list the soft skills required for your available jobs. However, the skills needed vary from one company to another. So, set your top priorities and measure these skills thereafter.

Michael Page surveyed 1,000 UK hiring managers to identify the most in-demand soft skills this year. Unsurprisingly, communication skill tops the list, as determined by 35% of the respondents. However, there are many other skills required in the workplace, as follows:

  • Communication Skills: Look for candidates who can convey messages clearly and respond to colleagues effectively.
  • Active Listening Skills: Search for applicants who take time to listen to understand others.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Hire employees who can easily and quickly get along with others
  • Problem-solving Skills: Explore talent with critical thinking and analytics skills capable of solving problems.
  • Organizational Skills: Employ individuals with the innate ability to organize things and ideas.
  • Leadership Skills: Discover talent who has what it takes to be a leader.
  • Time Management Skills: Look for employees who manage their time efficiently using techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, Eisenhower Matrix and Productivity Detox.

2. Screen Resumes with Cover Letters

After listing all the soft skills you’re looking for in candidates, start by screening resumes. While at it, you should require cover letters and accept only those with one.

The goal is to identify applicants who have met the minimum requirements for soft skills. This step lets you filter all the job applications received and shortlist candidates for the next step.

When examining resumes and cover letters, here’s what to look for:

  • Skills and Attributes: Some applicants indicate their soft skills on their resumes, such as communication, networking, and leadership skills. Others indirectly showcase their skills under work experience or educational attainment. Often, you should check their online presence to unravel red flags and discover soft skills.
  • Employment Experiences: In some cases, you can learn more about the candidates’ soft skills under the work experience. For example, a candidate previously assumed team lead roles, which could imply they have leadership skills
  • Educational Background: Educational attainment can also reveal the job applicants’ soft skills. The courses they took in college might indicate the skills they specialize in. For instance, Mass Communication graduates most likely possess excellent communication skills.
  • Seminars, Conferences, and Training: Take the time to check what these candidates have attended. For example, some applicants earned the Lean Six Sigma certifications, which make them great leaders. Others have learned Latin, Arabic or Chinese languages, making them good communicators.

3. Conduct Soft Skill Assessments

Now, it’s time to let your screened candidates undergo soft skill assessments. You can harness the power of automation to streamline your examinations. Below are some types of evaluations they can take:

  • Self-assessment Surveys: Hand out questionnaires that allow applicants to evaluate themselves. These surveys will reveal much about their soft skills, whether they possess excellent communication, interpersonal or leadership skills.
  • Psychometric Tests: These tests, integrated seamlessly with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), measure the traits and attributes of candidates that can reveal much about their soft skills. Some examples are personality, behavioral and emotional quotient (EQ) exams.
  • Behavioral Interviews: These interviews focus on deciphering the candidates’ behaviors, not necessarily their knowledge and skills. They can also help you identify and gauge their soft skills.
  • Role-playing Exercises: These exercises emulate real-life business settings where candidates must act. For example, you can conduct a mock call pretending to be a customer while the candidates play as the customer service representatives.

Will Ward, Co-Founder at Industry Arabic, recommends investing in soft skill assessments. “However, crafting such exams can be tricky. You need to get behavioral specialists, psychologists and other mental health experts in the process. That way, the assessments will show the candidates’ soft skills and reveal their true color.”

4. Interview Candidates with Key Questions

Candidates who passed the soft skill assessments can now proceed to the interview proper. This part requires effective conversational interview techniques to identify top candidates with the necessary soft skills. The recruitment teams must brainstorm tricky questions to ask the applicants.

Wondering what to ask? Here are some unique questions you might want to consider:

  • Communication: How do you explain the color red to a blind person?
  • Active Listening: What quirky details would you observe from a suspect in a crime investigation?
  • Interpersonal: If you get stranded on an island, what three types of persons would you rather be with?
  • Problem-solving: How would you solve the mystery of the missing pens in your office?
  • Organizational: What’s your secret for arranging a chaotic pile of paperwork?
  • Leadership: If trapped on an island, how would you take the lead in ensuring you all survive?
  • Time Management: What do you think your day will be like as an employee of this company?
  • Negotiation: How would you convince kidnappers to let go of the child in captivity?
  • Networking: How would you convince a deaf person to buy your earphones?
  • Conflict Resolution: How would you mediate between two colleagues arguing about where to eat for lunch?

John Gardner, Co-Founder & CEO of Kickoff, believes in the power of asking the right inquiries. “When dealing with clients, we ask them valid questions to have a picture of their lifestyle before creating fitness plans and giving nutrition recommendations. The same idea applies to the recruitment process. Ask the right questions to unravel the candidate’s soft skills and see if they fit the jobs.”

5. End with Final Interview and Deliberation

At this point, you only have a few candidates vying for the open position. They all have the soft skills required for the job. However, the end goal is to hire the best among them all.

Linda Shaffer, Chief People Operations Officer at Checkr, suggests conducting background checks before the final interview. “You should have already conducted background checks and contacted their character references. The final candidates should already be the best of the best.”

After the background check, you take the following steps:

  • Final Interview with the Operational Manager (OM): The OM of the department where the hired employees will work usually conducts the last interview. They often have the final say.
  • Final Deliberation with the Recruitment Team: It’s best, however, to leave the final decision to the recruitment team. After the final interviews with the OM, this team should sit down and deliberate. That way, they’ll end up hiring the right people!

Final Words

Soft skills are as equally important as hard skills in the workplace. Start by listing those skills needed for the jobs and required by your company. As part of your recruitment process, follow the crucial steps below:

  • Filter resumes (with cover letters)
  • Hold skill assessments
  • Conduct interviews
  • Make final deliberation

By taking the critical steps above, you’ll be successful in hiring talent with the right soft skills. Ultimately, these new hires will be your best assets, contributing to your business success!

Catherine Schwartz

Catherine Schwartz is a marketing & e-commerce specialist who helps brands grow their revenue and move their businesses to new levels.