We all know that hiring is hard. Sure, any intelligent individual can pass your tests, psychological interview questions, and social media checks. But, how do you know who is going to be the best fit in the long term? When the going gets hard or when they are left unsupervised, how will they act?

It turns out that beyond the technical skills needed for the job at hand, soft skills are just as important to assess.

What are soft skills?

The dictionary defines it as, "personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people." In short, an employee that has soft skills mean they can help develop an ideal company culture.

LinkedIn surveyed over 1,200 hiring managers in their 2017 Emerging Jobs Report and discovered that the most important soft skills to have were:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Culture Fit
  3. Collaboration
  4. Leadership
  5. Growth Potential
  6. Prioritization

Dan Shapero, VP of Talent Solutions, Careers, and Learning at LinkedIn, weighed in on the results:

"Several of these skills speak to a single theme... making those around you better. The best employees not only deliver against their own goals, but also lift the performance of their colleagues."

Regardless of what phase you are in with your company, you'll ultimately find yourself in one of three situations. How do you look for or implement these soft skills?

1. You want to hire someone with these soft skills.

At the end of the day, you may not be able to truly tell a person's soft skills until they are working with your team. If you can afford to do work trials, then have your top candidates come in for a short period of paid time to see how they interact with your team.

If that's not feasible, develop a list of scenario-based questions that show how they think and see if these skills show up as a priority within their answers.

To demonstrate growth potential, my favorite basic but telling question is to ask where they see themselves within the company and in their personal life. The latter may feel out of context, but it lets your candidate know you care about who they are as a person.

In addition, knowing how they measure and envision growth and success is key to understand how they'll perform later on.

To test adaptability, ask about examples of when they've had to think on their feet or how they responded to a time-sensitive critical situation. To understand their collaboration abilities, ask them about their roles and experiences in a group setting. 

Although these questions may seem relatively simple, that's because they are. At the end of the day, straightforward questions get straightforward answers.

Shapero's favorite interview question?

"I ask them about their past experience managing tricky situations with peers, and I've found that those with stronger soft skills have deeper perspectives on what to do and why."

2. You want to teach or develop your current team with these soft skills.

Fortunately, you already have gone through the intense process of hiring, but now you're looking for your team to up their game. Instead of trying to teach all of these soft skills at once, decide which skill is most important for each member of your team to develop. From there, create situations where they can practice improving that skill.

Provide hands-on experiences for your team to learn more about developing this skill. Think conferences, team building activities, or dedicate days to education.

Do you have a talented team member who's too shy to take the lead on a project? Next time, work on their leadership skills by specifically assigning the project to them. It's okay if they're not good at it--be prepared to coach and support them along the way. Be a mentor.

Also, remember that everyone is watching you. Lead by example and show why and how these skills are necessary to work better and the rest will follow.  

3. Certain members of your team just don't have some of these soft skills.

What happens then? If they're still a good fit for their role, then it's okay. Shapero clarifies:

"Teams with diverse skill sets usually win, so not every employee needs to be strong at all of these soft skills, and oftentimes it takes longer for these skills to surface for new employees as they build trust with those around them. Ultimately the most important question is what the team needs to be successful and perform at its potential, and whether this person raises the performance of the team or not."

At the end of the day, it's okay if your team members don't have all of these skills. Continue to support your employees where they need that skill improvement but allow them to shine where they are strongest.

As long as your team can thrive together, then you are in a good place.

Published on: Jan 29, 2018