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Sizing Them Up: How to Assess Soft Skills

Today's employers want to hire for soft skills, but finding qualified candidates and retaining talented employees who possess these skills is rarely simple. With the right approach to assess soft skills, you can identify candidates and employees who have the tools to thrive in your organization.

You don't need to be a hiring expert to evaluate soft skills in candidates and employees. Whether you're recruiting or promoting from within, here are five tactics to use:

  1. Ask the Right Interview Questions

    The average company needs three weeks or longer to hire the right candidate. Fortunately, you can assess a candidate's soft skills during an interview to accelerate the hiring process.

    Create a list of interview questions that encourage a candidate to describe situations in which they:

    • Led a team through adversity
    • Felt like there was too much work on their plate
    • Explained a complex topic to a stranger
    • Collaborated with someone who was unwilling to compromise
    • Revamped a plan due to last-minute changes

    In their responses, look for evidence of intangible qualities needed to succeed in the available role. Make sure you standardize the interview questions used, so you can easily "compare apples to apples" and determine how well candidates' soft skills stack up against one another.

  2. Consult With References

    Reference checks are often used to learn about a candidate's professional expertise. Yet employers can look beyond professional references to assess a candidate's soft skills.

    Ask a candidate to provide professional and personal references. In doing so, you can reach out to references to learn about a candidate's technical skills, along with their ability to:

    • Perform under pressure
    • Collaborate with peers
    • Respond to feedback
    • Think critically
    • Empathize with others

    Encourage references to provide examples of times in which a candidate used their soft skills. These examples showcase a candidate's ability to use soft skills in different scenarios.

  3. Require a Self-Assessment

    A candidate self-assessment generally won't take long to conduct and can be completed early in the interview process. Plus, the assessment helps employers evaluate a candidate's soft skills related to a specific role.

    Produce a self-assessment that allows a candidate to rate their soft skills. The assessment can emphasize a variety of soft skills, including:

    • Conflict resolution
    • Creativity
    • Dependability
    • Empathy
    • Problem-solving

    If a candidate's soft skills fall in line with job requirements, you may have found the right candidate. On the other hand, if a candidate lacks essential soft skills, you may want to remove them from consideration.

  4. Use an Online Test

    An online test provides an unbiased assessment to evaluate a candidate's or employee's ability to perform a job. As such, it offers an effective way to analyze a candidate's or employee's soft skills and improve talent recruitment and retention.

    Thanks to an online soft skills test, you can measure a candidate's or employee's:

    • Conscientiousness
    • Emotional intelligence
    • Integrity
    • Motivation
    • Resilience

    Use online soft skills tests that include true/false, multiple choice or essay questions - or a combination of the three. This helps you understand how a candidate or employee uses soft skills to respond to assorted work scenarios and hire or promote accordingly.

  5. Provide a Real-World Exercise

    Research indicates most talent professionals believe it is more important to hire for soft skills than hard skills. With real-world exercises, you can simultaneously judge a candidate's or employee's soft and hard skills.

    Use a real-world exercise to discover how a candidate or employee responds to a problem. This allows you to see how a candidate or employee applies soft and hard skills to:

    • Analyze a problem
    • Engage with colleagues and superiors
    • Identify potential solutions
    • Develop and execute a solution
    • Prevent a problem from recurring

    A real-world exercise provides a learning opportunity for both you and a candidate or employee. The exercise shows you how an individual uses soft and hard skills to address a problem. At the same time, the exercise shows the person what you will expect from them on a day-to-day basis.

The Bottom Line on Assessing Soft Skills

Soft skills separate a good candidate or employee from an exceptional one. To properly gauge a candidate's overall "fit," employers must look beyond education, hard skills and industry expertise. Instead, employers must use soft skills assessments to:

  • Ensure a Candidate or Employee Suits the Role: Verify that a candidate or employee has the tools to succeed.
  • Identify a Candidate or Employee Who Complements Your Organization: Find a candidate or employee who fits your organization's culture.
  • Set the Stage for a Long-Lasting Partnership: Identify a candidate or employee who supports your organization's mission and goals.

Need help finding candidates who are a great match?

A qualified staffing or recruiting partner uses a wide range of tools to ensure candidates are an ideal match for your available job and culture. From structured interviews to in-depth reference checks to job benchmarking, recruiting experts learn the soft skills required for success in your organization - and refer individuals who will thrive on the job.