How many times has this happened to you? You find a candidate with all the experience and technical skills you need for an open position. It seems like they have everything it will take to succeed with your company. But then they actually start working and things are a disaster.
They don’t get along with any of their co-workers, every email they send is indecipherable, and their attitude puts a damper on everything. Their work is quality, but they don’t fit in well otherwise. Their job skills were what you were looking for, but they didn’t have the necessary soft skills.
This happens all too often because of how difficult it can be to assess soft skills during the hiring process. It takes interviewers years of hard work to develop the ability to identify soft skills accurately.
If you need a little help fine-tuning your soft skills radar, here are some tips from hiring experts:
1. Craft questions that reflect the skills you need
During an interview, it’s easy to evaluate a candidate’s interpersonal skills. How they communicate, dress, and present themselves are telling signs of their level of professionalism and whether they fit with the culture of the company. No matter how qualified a person may be, it won’t work if they don’t get along with the rest of the team. It’s essential to hire candidates who match the values of the organization.
On the other hand, it’s challenging to assess whether a person has the necessary organizational and time management skills. No one is going to tell you they are disorganized and inefficient. Most people are not objective when assessing their own skill level in these areas.
Ask for proof of use of the skills. This is one of the most effective ways to gain insight into a candidate’s soft skills. For example, you could ask the following questions during an interview: Describe a time you had to juggle multiple tasks and deadlines. How did you prioritize your assignments? How an individual responds to these types of questions allows you to know if he or she has the required skills, evidenced by specific examples.
2. Get specific
When candidates are asked to give specific examples of certain experiences, challenges, and successes they have experienced, their responses are generally much more meaningful and insightful.
To assess leadership, for example, it is often beneficial to ask for examples pertaining to specific teams the candidate has led, what went well, and what could have been handled differently. How they got cooperation from challenging team members, how they assessed and improved team performance, and what feedback they personally received from their managers can also be very telling.
3. Use objective tests
The biggest challenge is often not what you want to find out, but how skilled the interviewer is at seeing through the mask and how skilled the candidate is at masquerading. That’s also why personality tests can be helpful. The power of personality, behavior, and general mental ability tests are their ability to provide a third party assessment of a candidate’s “hard-wiring.”
Instead of using the results to predict fit, I recommend using the information to target specific soft skills you need and how the candidate’s hard-wiring may support or derail them in the position. Then interview deeper with situational and behavioral questions.
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4. Gauge candidates’ self-awareness
For most roles, the easiest and most important things to assess are communication style, conflict resolution, and teamwork/leadership. Two of the more difficult ones are resilience and positivity, because it is hard to put into context the extent of a situation’s actual impact on the candidate. It will come down to the candidate’s level of self-awareness.
For example, you could inquire about a past experience where they were hugely disappointed, or failed at a project they had worked hard on. The candidate’s perception is what you will get the most out of from their response. Their perception of how hard they worked, of other’s feedback, and so forth will tell you a lot. There will be many who feel they are positive individuals, but in reality, they are not.
What are some other keys to assessing soft skills during the interview process? Share in the comments below!