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Why You Should be Hiring for Soft Skills, Not Just Technical Abilities

Allie Kelly

In our technology-dependent business landscape, it’s no wonder companies place so much importance on having employees that are experts in STEM fields and skilled in the latest coding languages, project management software or UX design methods.

However, good soft skills are just as important than technical abilities when it comes to making smart hiring decisions. Recruiters and hiring managers should be keen to effectively assess a candidate’s soft skills in order to to create a well oiled workforce.

Abstract skills with real-world implications

Soft skills can be broadly defined as people skills. Effective interpersonal communication, emotional intelligence, active listening and collaboration are examples of this type of ability. However, soft skills also extend to talents like time management, problem-solving, organization, delegation and written communication. These abilities may seem more abstract and vague than Java coding or experience using Salesforce, but they are depended upon in work environments everyday. . If your web development team can’t effectively communicate their ideas to non-technical supervisors, or if your sales team lacks the interpersonal skills for strong client relationships and lead generation, your company is unlikely to be successful. Soft skills are the glue that holds your organization together, and the spark that helps it move forward.

Soft vs. ‘hard’ skills

Of course, technical abilities are important for employees at any organization to have, especially in the digital age. However, the one key difference between soft and hard skills are that hard skills can be taught, while soft skills are very difficult to learn if one does not naturally possess them. “Qualities such as accountability, collaboration, decisiveness, innovation, creativity, cultural awareness, a global mindset, responsible management, emotional and moral intelligence, empathy and mindfulness are hard to teach – but these are the qualities employers need and want in a fast-changing complex environment,” said Aarti Bhasin, employee relations manager at the Association of MBAs, in an interview with HR Magazine.

Conversely, it is often much easier – and quicker – to teach someone how to use a new software platform than it is to teach them how to strengthen their interpersonal skills. While soft skills can be improved over time, communication habits can be difficult to change. In many cases, the decision with the greatest ROI is for a company to hire a candidate who has outstanding soft skills but may lack certain technical experience than to hire a person with great technical abilities and few soft skills.

Tips for hiring for soft skills

If your company wants to bring on employees with superior soft skills, then they need to adjust their hiring practices to match this objective. Here are some tips for hiring for soft skills:

Tweak the job posting: All too often employers fill a job post with a dizzying list of names of software suites, apps and content management systems that candidates should be adept at using. However, hiring managers should also list soft skills that are essential for the role, and make sure they’re as prominent in the posting as technical abilities. Don’t throw the kitchen sink of soft skills into the job description, however: Zero in on the ones that are most important to the role, and use specific examples when describing them. For example, don’t just write “good communicator,” but instead say something like, “Effective verbal communicator with experience in long-term client relationship-building.”

Ask targeted interview questions: Use the interview process to learn more about the candidate’s soft skills. Experience-based questions are the most effective at fleshing out soft skills, according to The Muse. Ask questions such as, “Can you tell me about a time you faced a challenge at work, and how you overcame it?” and “Can you describe a time when you worked as part of a team?” We may live in a digital age, but soft skills are more important than ever. Prioritize hiring candidates who have outstanding soft skills to further create a workforce primed for success.

Allie Kelly


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