3 Soft Skills You Need to Be Able to Spot In Candidates

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Dec 7, 2016

After weeks of interviewing job candidates, you’ve narrowed your search down to your top two candidates. They both have stellar resumes, the right amount of experience, and nailed each round of interviews. Aside from their different personalities, they’re neck-in-neck in every way.

How do you make your choice?

Unless you’ve paid attention to each candidate’s set of soft skills, there’s no objective way to make a decision. While technical skills and experience are necessary to making sure a person can do the job, it is soft skills that will make or break their success with your company. Those traits are what separate average candidates from truly great ones.

That’s why, regardless of the open position or industry, hiring managers place such value in soft skills. In a recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, HR professionals were asked to rate the skills they looked for in entry-level candidates. Topping the list were soft skills like dependability, integrity, and respect.

However, as easy as it is to list the most important soft skills, it can be difficult to accurately assess them when reviewing candidates. Understand why each skill is valuable to employers and how you can spot them during the hiring process.

Here are three necessary soft skills and how to better assess them:


Why it matters

It doesn’t matter how skilled an employee is if you can’t rely on them. Knowing a candidate will consistently meet deadlines and do their part to help the team succeed gives employers peace of mind. The trouble is judging dependability during the hiring process. Aside from whether they show up for their interview on time, all you can do is guess if a candidate will be there when they’re needed.

How to assess it

The best indicator of a candidate’s dependability is their past work history. If they were constantly late or calling in sick at their last job, chances are things won’t change when you hire them. Call references before extending a job offer.

A 2015 SkillSurvey report found that 86 percent of employers feel checking references is one of the most important steps of the hiring process. Only the interview was rated more insightful.

When you call a candidate’s references, verify more than the employment dates they listed on their resume. Ask about their punctuality and their willingness to pitch in on projects so you can get a better idea about their dependability.


Why it matters

Employees are a representation of your company brand. If they can’t be trusted to behave and make decisions with integrity, it can — and will — hurt the organization’s reputation. Unfortunately, people who lack this soft skill don’t go around admitting it. In most cases, you don’t find out an employee is unscrupulous until it is too late.

How to assess it

In the aforementioned SHRM survey, 97 percent of HR professionals said that using a situational judgement test allowed them to confidently assess candidates’ integrity. The trick, however, is knowing what type of answer would signify a good fit for the company.

First, think about the organization’s core values and how the best employees exhibit those traits. Then craft scenarios where having similar morals would affect how a candidate answers.

For example, if your company values customer experience above all, ask candidates what they would do if they realized a long-time customer had been overbilled recently. People who say they would bring the error to the client’s attention and refund the money have a sense of integrity that aligns with the company.


Why it matters

Treat others the way you want to be treated. Although this is one of the first lessons we all learn as children, a surprising number of adults lack respect. While any candidate can mind their Ps and Qs during the interview process, that often goes out the window as soon as they land the job. In fact, the SHRM survey found that, for 49 percent of HR professionals, the biggest issue with assessing respect was that the quality was too easy for applicants to fake.

How to assess it

Anyone can show respect toward their potential boss during the hiring process. They know who they need to impress, and turn on their manners. Truly respectful people, however, treat every member of the team the same way.

Find out how candidates act when you’re not around by asking others who interacted with them to provide feedback. If they were rude to the receptionist or ignored the driver you sent to bring them to the interview, that’s a big sign that they lack respect.

Soft skills are so integral to a candidate’s true quality, but many take them for granted. Never assume that an experienced applicant has the character traits you’re looking for. Instead, hone your ability to assess valuable soft skills during the hiring process.

What are some other important soft skills that can be difficult to assess? Share in the comments below!

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