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How to assess a candidates soft skills during an interview

How to assess a candidates soft skills during an interview

Why are soft skills important?  

Soft skills, candidates’ personal qualities, are essential for job performance and cultural fit.

Screening for soft skills is as equally important to testing for technical abilities. Obviously, these technical abilities and ‘hard skills’ are essential – it’s unlikely a candidate would have made it to the interview stage if they were lacking. However, it’s the soft skills that’ll help interviewers depict the suitability of candidates for both the role and the company. It’s doubtful a HR Manager would be hired if they lacked communication skills, regardless of their qualifications.

  • 80% say employees soft skills are increasingly important to company success
  • 92% say soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills
  • 90% of UK of talent professionals say soft skills are very important to the future of recruiting and HR
  • 89% say bad hires typically lack soft skills
  • 57% struggle to assess soft skills accurately

“Soft Skills- where machines can’t compete”

  • Concentrating on candidate competencies and behaviours can enable better hiring decisions
  • Soft skills screening allows organisations to make more accurate evaluations of candidates’ character and behaviour, leading to fewer bad hires

 

What soft skills should you look for when interviewing a candidate?

Necessary soft skills vary depending on level, role and the company in which you’re hiring for. An admin assistant isn’t reliant on their ‘leadership skills’, while such skills would be essential within a managerial role. Required skills will also depend on company culture- for example, some may specifically seeking innovative and inquisitive individuals, while another seeks reliance and stability.

No matter the context, there are several soft skills that are highly sought after:

  • Communication
  • Self-motivation
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Adaptability
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Work ethic
  • Decisiveness
  • Time Management
  • Flexibility

Before interviewing candidates, you should determine the soft skills most valued at your company and the required skills for the role.

 

How do you establish if a candidate has the necessary soft skills?

Consider pre-screening candidates

Using brief surveys, quizzes and games in the pre-screening process will enable you to analyse the candidates’ behaviour and assess their skills with minimal bias. This data can then be used to guide interview questions. Personality tests like DISC or Insights are particularly useful for this.

Structured questioning

Interviews are best practice to gain insight into a candidate personalities and range of soft skills. However, it’s common for interviewers to judge subjectively and hire people who are similar to them. To avoid this, one should ask a standardised set of open-ended behavioural and situational questions that allow candidates to discuss individual experiences. This offers insight into the candidate’s character and communication skills. Standardising the questions ensures each candidate received the same experience, and therefore, have equal opportunities to impress.

 

What the difference between behavioural and situational questions?

Behavioural interview questions draw on past experiences: “Tell me about a time when…”

Situational interview questions are hypothetical: “What would you do…”

 

Here are some examples of questions you may ask to determine a candidate’s skill set:

  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult colleague/customer/client. What did you do to communicate properly?
  • How would you explain ‘this term’ to someone from a different discipline?
  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a team member who constantly opposed your ideas
  • Tell me about a time when you had to ask for help
  • Tell me about a time you were put in a difficult position at work, how did you resolve it?
  • What would you do if your team members disagreed with your instructions?
  • What would you do if you were assigned multiple tasks with the same deadline?
  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information
  • If you spotted a mistake in a report but your manager wasn’t available, what would you do?
  • Tell me about a time you faced an ethical dilemma at work

 

Ask industry based problem solving questions to see soft skills in action.

Consider setting a written task to test written communication and critical thinking skills.

 

Tips to successfully identify a candidates soft skills during an interview:

  • Be mindful that bias doesn’t creep in – especially similarity bias.
  • Take note of the candidates body language – this can sometimes tell a very different story to the words being spoken.
  • Bear in mind candidate behaviour during an interview may not accurately represent their ‘normal’ actions.
  • Don’t rely on social cues to asses a candidates soft skills, these are often unconsciously biased and reduce the consistency within the interview process.