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Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills

by | Nov 2, 2022 | Hiring Tips | 0 comments

By Eric Waldowski

When it’s time to add staff, we all have certain criteria for education, time spent with prior experience, and certifications or licensing requirements. Advertising these requirements and identifying them in your potential hires is a major part of the hiring process.

The above examples (hard skills) often shape the way we write job ads and guide the questions we ask during phone screens and interviews. However, they are only half the picture of how a potential hire will perform in your office environment and culture.

When we are hiring, we also look for other traits such as integrity, creativity, and adaptability. I see variations of this in the requirements section of job ads daily, and many of our candidates are used to answering these requirements. Behavioral interview questions have been a good solution to easily bring examples of these traits to the forefront; however, by now your candidate has likely encountered them before and has likely prepped for them in some fashion.

“Tell me about a time you made the wrong hire.” -The key to uncovering necessary soft skills is not found in just behavioral interviewing, reference checks, or looking at work history. I will share my process for identifying soft skills when I hire.

Assessment(s) – Of course, with a baseline understanding of a person’s intrinsic personality, we can get a good feeling for what to look for in an interview. A candidate with a support personality, such as a Knowledgeable, will display active listening skills, and will also likely answer questions about goal setting and achievement with a specific plan or outline. A sales personality, such as a networker, will be far more talkative and is more likely to answer the same question with a short, concise answer. Each will carry themselves, act, and speak differently; these are the soft skills we need to identify. If I get into a conversation with a candidate, and their assessment results vary greatly from the soft skills that they actually display, it would prompt me to dig a bit deeper.

Varied Opinions – When I add to my team, the candidates are initially phone screened by a teammate of mine. This allows another perspective of how the candidate conducts themselves, their tone and body language, and the way they interact with the interviewer. When it’s time for the final interview, I will bring a teammate in on the virtual or in person meeting as well. This is not only an excellent way to get a second or third opinion on the candidate, but it also puts the candidate in a situation where more varied soft skills can be displayed.

The Interview – while you can find hundreds if not thousands of examples of interview questions to help “uncover” soft skills, I find that less is more. The goal is to get them talking and to listen intentionally. “Tell me about a time when you had to take on a large project with no direction.” While I do want to know what technical steps the candidate would utilize to address this roadblock, I’m looking for how they answer the question. Do they make eye contact? Do they ask any clarifying questions? Regardless of the story they tell to answer the question, did they put themselves in the position of “leader” in implementing the solution?

We see soft skills listed in resumes all the time. When it comes time to bring someone onto your team, don’t miss the opportunity to look deeper and see those skills play out before you make an offer. Assess everyone, including your current staff, friends, and family; we can’t know what to look for if we don’t have a baseline. Get another opinion; if you are just opening up or don’t have anyone to interview candidates along with you, record it and watch it at a later time. And interview intentionally. Less is more; ask the right questions to uncover the soft skills you need. Make sure to check out our help center for interview tips and questions by personality type to help your candidates display their soft skills when it counts.

Happy hiring.

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