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Most valuable soft skills and how to look for them

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A candidate's soft skills offer insight into how he or she will perform in a business setting.

A candidate’s soft skills offer insight into how he or she will perform in a business setting.

When hiring managers are choosing between candidates who have relatively similar experiences and backgrounds, the decision often comes down to their skills. And while assessing the technical competencies of an applicant is undoubtedly important, they are not the only factors hiring managers should consider in pre-employment testing.

Soft skills are important to test in candidates because they offer insight into the traits and qualities of a person that may not be translated during, for example, a Microsoft Office skills test. Learning more about an applicant’s soft skills allows employers to get a better idea of how the individual may fit with the corporate culture, the ability they have to excel in leadership roles and how inclined they will be to learn and grow within the company.

Gaining this information also gives hiring managers an advantage because it can hint at the strengths and weaknesses of a personality – which is important knowledge because it can be used to tailor roles and learning opportunities to improve engagement and, therefore, retention.

In-demand soft skills
Last year, LinkedIn conducted a survey revealing some of the most in-demand skills – which consisted mostly of hard skills. In an article, LinkedIn Economist Guy Berger explained that recruiters began telling the company that they were struggling to find candidates who had the appropriate soft skills.

As Berger worded it, “Hard skills vary based on the job, but soft skills are required for every job.”

In its subsequent research, LinkedIn found that some of the most sought-after soft skills, among others, include:

The findings also showed that coming across candidates with these soft skills was a challenge for nearly 60 percent of hiring managers.

It's important consider how well a candidate will fit within the corporate culture.It’s important to consider how well a candidate will fit within the corporate culture.

Assessing soft skills in candidates
According to Fast Company, researchers have conducted studies indicating that soft skills are lacking among today’s college graduates. However, perhaps the issue isn’t so much that the skills aren’t there, but that employers aren’t asking the right questions or using the correct methods that allow them to identify and assess these skills effectively.

After conducting baseline technical and aptitude tests, hiring managers must thoughtfully and strategically move forward with that information. Often the best way – and environment – to gauge the personal attributes of a candidate is during the interview process. The questions asked in this phase of the recruitment and selection process play a crucial role in what the hiring manager learns about the applicant and, in turn, how accurately they are able to determine whether he or she is a good fit for the role.

For example, when trying to determine the communication skills of an interviewee, in some situations, it’s helpful to pay attention to how well-spoken and confident the individual is in answering each question – rather than the content of their response. Most applicants are going to tell the hiring manager what they want to hear, so reading between the lines is essential.

Similarly, asking on-the-spot questions about how he or she would help solve a specific challenge the company is currently facing shouldn’t just be about seeing whether the person has valuable ideas for the organization to immediately use. It’s also an opportunity to see how well the person thinks and works under pressure.

In today’s competitive job market, it’s important for employers to be strategic in how they assess and acquire talent. The pre-employment tests an organization conducts can dramatically influence a company’s ability to find and onboard the right candidates.

By enhancing and optimizing their methods for vetting the skills and competencies of applicants, employers can significantly improve both employee retention rates and organizational performance.