All About Soft Skills

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CT TeamJuly 28, 2021

Data is one of the most valuable assets a company can own today. 

The modern workplace is constantly changing and as a result, it is becoming even more important for employees to have a strong set of soft skills. 

In this blog we define soft skills, explain why they are so important to recruiters and provide tips on how you can measure them during your recruitment process.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills or interpersonal skills are non-technical skills like communication, creativity and integrity. They can also be classified as behaviour traits or habits. 

Soft skills are the behaviours and attributes you use to navigate different situations. They characterise how a person interacts in their relationships and how they operate in the workplace. Some universal soft skills recruiters look for are teamwork, adaptability and communication skills. Skills like these are hard to teach and usually learned over time, which is why they are so valuable.

In-demand soft skills

Why are soft skills important?

91% of talent professionals say soft skills are one of the most important things to look for when recruiting. 

Recruiters look for candidate soft skills because they are harder to teach and greatly contribute to success in the workplace. By contrast, hard skills are easier to pick up and can be learnt on the job.

With employees spending about 50% more time engaged in collaborative work it is vital they have strong teamwork and communications skills for the best results.

Also, within a rapidly changing work environment, candidates with the ability to adapt can provide significant cost savings for businesses. For example, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, employees who adapted quickly to working remotely found themselves more productive.

“The people that are successful in organisations - and the reason those organisations are successful - is that everybody uses their technical skills and their soft skills all the time” - Dr Marion Steel, faculty of Business and Law, Deakin University.

How can recruiters assess soft skills?

Soft skills are hard to assess. Resumes can easily indicate hard skills but struggle to accurately depict candidate soft skills. The good news is there are a variety of methods and technologies that can help recruiters assess a candidate’s soft skills.

How to use manual methods to assess soft skills

Soft skills are intangible and can be difficult to assess through hard questioning. For instance, asking someone if they are a good communicator will not always reveal the truth! Here are some tips for more subtly identifying candidate soft skills during interviews.

Ask behavioural questions

Behavioural questions are open-ended questions that allow candidates to draw on past experiences to help provide context and evidence for their answers. These questions allow interviewers to assess how candidates might react in future situations.

Different behavioural questions can be used to assess different soft skills. 

Examples of behavioural questions are: 

  • To test for communication skills. Tell me about a time when you had to give a team member constructive criticism. How did you go about it?
  • To test for analytical skills. Describe a project that you worked on where you had to take steps to solve a problem. What was the problem and what logic did you apply to solve it?

Ask situational questions

Situational questions are similar to behavioural questions except you provide a hypothetical situation and ask how candidates would act. Unlike behavioural questions, situational questions are focused on the future and require the interviewee use their analytical and problem-solving skills to answer them. They are most effective in assessing a candidate's soft skills when given short notice and little preparation. 

Examples of situational questions are:

  • To test for communication skills. How would you handle it if your team resisted a new idea or policy you introduced?
  • To test for conflict management skills. What would you do if you disagreed with the way a manager wanted you to handle a problem?

Ask about trending topics

Asking about trending topics can be a good way to test a candidate's soft skills and hear answers that are not pre-rehearsed. You can do this by basing questions on major issues affecting the world, country or industry. For example, you might ask: What major trends do you think will affect this industry in the future and how would you prepare for them?

A candidate who can answer this question competently might be more alert and responsive and have higher levels of adaptability and professionalism.

Monitor body language

Body language refers to conscious and unconscious movements and postures by which attitudes are communicated. 

Observing candidates’ body language can allow you to learn more about their interpersonal skills. 

For example, if you were hiring for a sales role it would be important to notice whether candidates smile during your interview and maintain eye contact. When assessing body language, try to be wary of unconscious bias

In a job like sales, high levels of confidence and communication will be very important but in other roles, it won’t matter as much. It’s also important to take candidate nerves into account. For best results, use body language as only one tool in your arsenal.

Case studies

Using a case study or sample task can be a good way to see how a candidate or group of candidates operate. 

An easy way to do this is to provide a case for candidates to work on and have them pitch a solution back to you. 

The case may be relevant to the job at hand and can include photos, code or other forms of stimuli. The purpose of this exercise is to assess how candidates approach problems and work with others. 

Unlike interview questions, a group or individual case study is impossible to prepare for and would give recruiters great insight into their soft skills.

How to use digital tools to assess soft skills

Manually assessing soft skills can be time consuming and even promote bias. Digital screening tools are a great option for recruiters who want to save time and promote a fairer process. Here are some options to consider.

Artificial intelligence (AI) screening tools

AI screening tools use artificial intelligence to assess candidate soft skills. They do this in a variety of ways. For example, video interviewers might measure candidate behaviour during an interview and use this to make judgments about their soft skills. On the other hand, phone interviewers like Curious Thing are blind to candidate appearance and analyse what candidates say to determine behaviour scores.

Psychometric testing

Psychometric testing involves examining a candidate's capabilities and skills through puzzles, challenges or questions. For example, companies can ask the candidate to solve some complex algorithms or place them in a virtual-work environment and then assess how they perform. Psychometric tests are designed to measure a candidate's suitability for a role based on set criteria such as cognitive ability. 

Some examples of online psychometric testing platforms include Pymetrics and Revelian. 

To take your skill assessments to the next level and unearth the best-suited candidates, read our blog on why and how to implement interview rubrics.