Career Woman

Soft skills: How to assess and identify them in a job candidate


This concise guide outlines the difference between hard skills and soft skills, and how you can assess whether a job applicant has the soft skills you are looking for.

Finding the best candidate for a position can make or break your business. Studies have shown that companies who hire too quickly without thoroughly vetting their candidates can lose plenty of money and it can easily diminish company morale and culture. Before you begin searching for platforms to post jobs for free, you need to carefully create a description that attracts the right kind of talent. But it’s also important for you to think about the soft skills necessary to succeed in a position, rather than just the requirements.

First, it’s important to understand the difference between soft and hard skills. Hard skills refer to the skills needed to get a job, like accounting or writing. Soft skills are skills applicable to a person’s personality. Problem solving, creativity, and communication are examples of soft skills. Hard skills are clearly identified on resumes, but what about soft skills?

Ways to assess soft skills

Here are a few ways you can help identify soft skills:

Assess problem-solving skills

Although you may have asked questions that help reveal a candidate’s ability to solve problems, you should also ask questions that are specific to problem solving, as this is an important soft skill for many positions. There are plenty of examples of problem-solving skills you can find online. An example would be, “Describe a time a colleague made a mistake and how you handled it.”

Psychometric tests

Psychometric tests are used to analyze an individual’s behavior style and mental capabilities. It’s designed to assess cognitive abilities and suitability. More and more companies are using these tests to determine how a potential candidate might fit in an organization. These tests can also help discover hidden traits that may not be so easy to learn about in a standard interview setting.

For instance, the test might include verbal reasoning. Verbal reasoning questions offer a prompt, followed by a series of questions that help gauge whether the candidate was able to deduce the correct information and come to the right conclusions.

However, always do your research to determine whether these tests are viable for you. There is some debate over whether these are the best tools to gauge a candidate’s fit; even if you do use them, make sure you don’t treat them as the end all be all. Your interviews and gut feeling about a candidate play a larger role. 

Ask behavior questions

Behavior questions help reveal how potential candidates will react in a situation. Typically, these questions focus on problem-solving and communication questions. These questions include asking how they solved a problem at work, how they fixed a conflict with an employee or manager, and how they fixed and handled a mistake they made at work. It’s important to pay attention to canned responses that don’t feel as genuine as they should.

Furthermore, if they respond too quickly without taking a moment to think about their reply, this could be a red flag. When it comes to receiving answers from behavior questions, think about the acronym STAR: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Did they accurately describe the situation they were in; did they clearly explain the task expected of them; did they describe the actions they took; and what were the results?

Pay attention to body language

Body language can reveal plenty about interpersonal skills. Pay attention to a person’s eye contact when they’re answering your questions. Eye contact should be casual, and it’s normal to have a break in eye contact here and there.

Ask questions about your company

A small and brief question-and-session answer about your company can also help unearth potential soft skills. People who have researched your company, clients, and even employees have clearly demonstrable research skills and care a great deal about background information. It also indicates that they have a real interest in their profession or their industry. And lastly, it shows their preparedness; you’ll be able to see that they took the time and put in the effort to learn more about your organization.

Analyze extracurriculars

You can tell a lot about a person based on how they spend their time outside of the workplace. Ask your candidate whether they are members of any organizations, volunteer, or are involved in any clubs. This can reveal plenty about their collaboration and social skills. It can also help you gain insight into whether they spend their free time on constructive activities like sports or creative hobbies.

About Susan Alvarado'

Susan Alvarado is a business trainer and advisor specializing in HR and communications strategies

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