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HR & RECRUITMENT

Who you are tomorrow begins
with what you do today.

Soft Skills – What Everyone Wants but is Unsure how to Gain

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What are Soft Skills? Soft Skills are interpersonal skills which relate to how one works which include interactions with colleagues, problem-solving and stress/time management. Communication skills, empathy and listening skills are also types of soft skills.

Soft skills are very important when hiring a new employee as they are the key to a successful employment relationship. After all, every job requires colleague engagement in one form or another. These skills also make a candidate adaptable to what a job might entail and thus candidates with strong interpersonal skills will easily adapt to new jobs and responsibilities even if these weren’t 100% what they have had or worked with before.

According to this report, 92% of HR Managers, said that soft skills matter as much if not more than job-related hard skills while 80% of these say that soft skills are an increasingly important resource in company success. While they agree that soft skills are a make or break when it comes to hiring, most companies still struggle in accurately assessing these skills with only around 41% having a formal process of assessment.

Based on gathered data, in this report, LinkedIn listed the most in-demand skills related to their supply considering the time taken to find candidates with these skills.
These are:

  1. Creativity,
  2. Persuasion,
  3. Collaboration,
  4. Adaptability,
  5. Time Management.

LinkedIn behavioural data has found that out of all assessed soft skills, Creativity is currently the most in-demand soft skill and that it is actually in short supply. Creativity isn’t a skill just associated with art, design or visual works but it is actually a skill which is applicable to any role. Problem-solving is an excellent way of understanding creativity outside of art as it allows one to solve problems in original ways which is also something which cannot be easily replicated by machines.

As the business world automates, the demand for creative-minded people will only increase with a recent McKinsey study predicting a sharp increase in demand for this skill leading up to 2030.

With this sharp rise in demand for soft skills and automation becoming increasingly popular, companies are still struggling to correctly assess these skills even though most hiring and firing comes down to these same soft skills. Identifying the soft skills which a candidate might possess isn’t as clear cut as identifying hard skills. An architect needs to understand physics and a lawyer needs to understand case law to succeed at the most basic level of their jobs. Which is why it is easier to evaluate hard skills in accordance with the job and have a bad hire slip through. Talent professionals, know that soft skills are as important if not more than hard skills and try to prioritise these when interviewing and throughout the hiring process.

With this in mind, companies are still struggling when it comes to assessing these skills and there is a growing disconnect between having a formal assessment of these skills and the go-to methods of assessment not measuring up. Soft skills are generally approached in a number of different methods and often less directly as they do when approaching hard skills. This can be seen from 68% of talent acquisition professionals say that their main method of soft skills assessment is by picking up on social cues during interviews.

Unfortunately, these perceptions/methods are not only unpredictive but highly subjective and unconsciously biased. As mentioned, this is the most common approach to assessing soft skills, together with observing candidates’ body language during interviews and while situational questions can affectively be measured, they are subjective to bias and often are replied to with well-rehearsed answers. Other more accurate methods which go beyond an interview aren’t as popular and many are experimenting with new methods such as project-based initial assessment using tech-based solutions like Koru, Pymetrics and Plum which use AI to systematically measure candidates’ soft skills.

Truth is there isn’t one right method to approach this topic with and while many rely on decades-old methods and social cues others are attempting to take this process into the 21st century and the future and make it more accurate. The full report further looks into these methods using case studies by Citi Group.

The report identified 6 tips to aid the assessment of soft skills.

Determining the soft skills which your company value the most is important

This will likely set the benchmark which you as an HR professional will look at when assessing candidates. To create this benchmark, you should look at the skills your top performers not only share but possess as a whole and consider the potential skills needed when navigating challenges. LinkedIn also provides the LinkedIn Skills Insights which is a tool to help HR professionals identify if colleagues or candidates excel or fall short.

Identifying and defining the exact skills needed for the particular role

Apart from looking at companywide soft skills, it is important to clearly identify the skills needed for that role. Before advertising these skills, since they are tangible, confirm that everyone on the hiring team agrees with these skills.

Consider online pre-screening tools to screen candidates

Tools such as Koru, Pymetrics assesses candidates while they apply by analysing the way they answer questions or play games and systematically assess their soft skills and are less biased. These results will then aid in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of a candidate.

Be prepared that bias can and will creep in

When measuring soft skills during interviews, an unstructured and inconsistent approach to this assessment will most likely allow unconscious bias to play a role in your judgement. Similarity bias is a common form of bias as one may prefer a candidate that reminds them of them the chalk it up to “leadership” without a measurement of this.

Standardisation

When preparing interview questions or tasks, keep in mind that having a standardised process and questions/task will make assessment easier. This together with a clear marking criterion, will allow a more accurate evaluation even more so if different people conduct interviews. There is nothing wrong with asking behavioural or situational questions as long as they are consistent.

Ask problem-solving questions to see a candidate’s soft skills in action

One common question is outlining a 90-day plan to launch a new product then introduce constraints and conditions such as halving the timeframe or adjusting the budget and see how they react, adapt and build on the given feedback while monitoring their communication approach.

In conclusion, while hard skills may very well bring a candidate in for an interview, it is the way they conduct themselves during this interview and soft skills exhibited which ultimately keep them in the room. This said it is important for HR specialists to have a structured and consistent approach to measuring these skills without any bias.

The full report can be viewed here.

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