How do you evaluate soft skills when hiring a new employee?

In the today’s workplace, a successful employee is not only someone who just understands and performs their roles accurately, but also brings something extra to the table, and can collaborate with different teams. Employees with the right soft skills excel at work and can play a major role in helping achieve team synergies. Evaluating soft skills during the hiring process is critical.

Soft skills are personal attributes, including interpersonal and communication skills that enhance an employee’s effectiveness in the workplace. Whether you are looking for candidates who can fill temporary positions or are offering permanent employment, it is important that in addition to assessing the technical, i.e. hard skills of applicants, you evaluate their soft skills as well.  Here are three tips to help with that evaluation.

1. Ask behavior-based questions

When evaluating an applicant for soft skills, start by asking questions about past situations they were in and how they handled it. For example, to test their problem-solving skills, ask them to explain their answers in different scenarios. Inquire about any complex problems that they have solved in one of their past roles or a difficult situation they faced and how they handled it. Probe them about how they successfully used teamwork to complete a project. You can also ask about a hypothetical situation, such as “What if you were facing an ethical dilemma at work?  Describe how you would approach it?” For more on using structured, behavioral based interview questions, check out: The Structured Interview: It’s More Than Personality .

You can also ask the person to define their ideal work environment. Have them explain how they develop positive work relationships with their coworkers and supervisors. Analyzing the answers to these questions will help you create the candidate’s behavioral profile.

2. Ask references to rate the applicant’s soft skills

No matter how scientific and time-tested methods you use to assess an applicant’s soft skills, the chances of you making a judgmental error cannot be ruled out completely. To address this problem, check with their references. Those they have worked with in past roles can describe how they handle various situations. Or, ask the employee who referred the applicant to rate them. In most cases, employees who refer applicants know them well and can provide vital inputs that can help verify the recruiter’s findings.

3. Ask applicants to force rank their soft skills

Whether you are looking for temporary help or hiring for a full-time employee it does not make sense to ask questions in too straightforward a manner, as the answers to these no-brainers are pretty obvious. If, for instance, you ask applicants whether they have necessary soft skills, most of them would say yes.

To evaluate whether a particular applicant is the right fit for the organization, many recruiters in Greater Boston and the North Shore of Massachusetts, and elsewhere, ask applicants to force rank their soft skills. Once the recruiter has the list, they can check how high (or low) the soft skill that they consider essential to excel in the role ranks.

In Summary

During the hiring process, technical and subject matter expertise (hard skills) are often given the most emphasis. Just as important are soft skills such as communication, teamwork and problem solving. When selecting the best candidate for a role, doing a good job of evaluating soft skills is key.  The suggestions in this post should help you do just that.