SOFT SKILLS – What’s important in recruitment


Selecting the right candidate is difficult. Assessing prospective new staff, not just for technical abilities, but also for their soft skills or personality traits, can be frustrating. How important is it that they fit in with your company and the team? It’s just as crucial or maybe even more so than having the technical skills. Remember, technical skills can be taught, but attitude is more difficult to change.

It makes sense when you hear that a lack of soft skills among staff can limit productivity. The problem is that most hiring managers find assessing soft skills challenging.  Simply knowing you need to spot soft skills during the interview process is only half the battle. We thought it would helpful to know the best interview questions to help identify if a candidate has these skills.

LinkedIn found that the top five attributes recruiters and hiring managers are looking for when assessing soft skills are adaptability, culture fit, collaboration, growth potential, and being results-driven.

What questions would you ask and what responses should you expect during an interview?

  1. Adaptability

Our world is rapidly changing, making it essential to employ staff who can adapt to change quickly in a positive way.

To understand a candidate’s ability to adapt, ask about a time they had a plan in place and something came along that made them change their plans.

As with all of these questions, you are looking for the Situation, the Task, the Action (they took) and the Result – we call this the STAR method.

You’re looking for specific examples in their response, what was the plan and what obstacle or problem caused them to change their plan; how did they make their decision and how did changing the plan make them feel; how did the change affect other people; what was the result in the end, and with hindsight, would they do anything differently.

Managing big changes and being able to flex to meet new challenges or changing priorities is a clear sign of adaptability.

  1. Culture fit

LinkedIn say that 89% of hiring failures happen because the new employees weren’t good cultural fits. On the opposite side, research shows that those who have similar values to a company have higher job satisfaction, performance and longevity.

In assessing for culture fit, be sure to understand your company values and the values of the team. Focus on how the candidate’s values match or could add value to the role.

Try asking, “Not including the people, what would you miss most about your last job?”  Or “What does a good day or week look like to you?” Their answer should give you a sense of what motivates them to come to work every day. If their description is in line with your company culture and values, that’s a good indicator they will feel at home and will bring value to the team.

  1. Collaboration

The ability to work well with others supports productivity and creates a happy work place.

While you can determine this skill to some degree when asking questions related to adaptability and culture fit, collaboration has more to do with emotional intelligence and teamwork. Ask the candidate to describe a difficult working relationship with a colleague and how they dealt with it.

Some people have had the experience to develop the ability to work well with many different types of people and in different situations. To get a more complete picture, look further for projects that have gone well and why.

  1. Potential to develop

When an employee leaves a company, it costs around about 1.5 times the person’s salary to replace them. A new employee with the potential to develop brings benefits, from saving the company time and money to the ability to promote from within.

Ask the interviewee about a time when their manager / supervisor was unavailable and they had to solve an issue on their own. How did they decide what to do and what resources did they use? This will give you evidence of whether the interviewee has the qualities you are looking for: decision making, problem-solving, and managing execution.

Going a step further, ask the interviewee to tell you about the last time they learned a new skill. What prompted them to learn and what has been the value of the new skill? You’re looking for someone who can develop their own career and understand how they can add value.

  1. Being results-driven

With a more connected workplace nowadays, prioritising is more important than ever. Candidates who can make quick decisions about how to best order and organise tasks have an advantage over those who don’t.

When looking to find someone’s ability to organise, prioritise and meet deadlines, ask about a time when the candidate had to juggle several tasks at the same time, how they managed their time, how they managed expectations and the results they achieved.

Look out for those who can delegate effectively as this shows their ability to prioritise their own time. And, ask how they decide what’s most urgent for the day.

To select better people for your company, it’s not just the technical skills that are important. It’s the soft skills that will give you that competitive edge. Asking the right questions will help you in your selection process to have employees with the soft skills to succeed in your company.