What are soft skills?
Soft skills, also known as transferrable or employability skills, are those we use to interact with other people and our surroundings. They are abilities and personal traits that impact employees’ performance at work; they influence how employees communicate and build relationships with colleagues, cope with changes, and resolve conflicts or problems.
Soft skills are transferable across tasks, roles, and even careers and industries. Whereas hard skills are about technical knowledge (know-how), soft skills are more about personal attitudes and behaviour (the way you do something).
How do soft skills benefit employers?
Hiring the right candidates can have an enormous impact on the success of a company.
A report by LinkedIn found that 89% of companies stated that unsuccessful new hires lacked important soft skills. Additionally, research suggests that previous work experience, a common requirement when hiring, is not a good indicator of future performance in a new role. One reason could be the differences in responsibilities between two roles with the same job title.
Soft skills are becoming more and more important because they are transferrable across multiple roles and responsibilities.
Soft skills can help employers to:
- Indicate whether someone is a good fit for the company
- Facilitate professional growth and career progression
- Help build an effective and collaborative workforce
- Boost productivity and innovation
- Are essential for leaders who manage and motivate others
The main soft skills employers want
Based on data from over 660 million professionals and 20 million jobs, LinkedIn have identified five soft skills employers are looking for in 2020:
- Emotional Intelligence
How to assess soft skills before you hire?
Job Application Forms
- Encourage candidates to provide examples in their job applications by including desired soft skills in the job description.
- Note extracurricular activities, e.g. sport memberships, which may demonstrate collaboration and social skills.
- Ask open-ended and non-leading behavioural questions to encourage candidates to reflect on how they have previously acted in certain situations.
- Problem-solving questions like “tell me about a time when you solved a problem at work” are common behavioural questions that can be used to find out more about a candidate's soft skills.
- Pay attention to candidates’ behaviours during the interview; communication, body language, eye contact, and whether they interrupt you, are common clues.
- Be careful not to rely on your own subjective impressions of a candidate.
- Structured interviews with standardised questions can minimise unconscious bias.
- Be aware of factors that may influence a candidate’s performance, including anxiety or disability. Neurodiverse candidates, for example, may avoid eye contact or struggle with concentration and communication.
- Use psychometric assessments such as cognitive ability tests and personality questionnaires. These can complement interviews by helping employers pick up on traits that are more difficult to observe in interviews, as well as helping to generate strategic interview questions to ask candidates during the interview process.
- Personality questionnaires can help you identify and select the best candidates and employees’ work, problem-solving, interpersonal, and stress-management styles.
- Ability tests can be used to measure skills like communication, reasoning, and attention to detail