Too often, hiring managers prioritize stellar work experience or a prestigious college degree when deciding on which candidate will be the best fit for a particular role. However, an applicant’s soft skills – or personal attributes that help them to interact effectively with their peers – are often just as important, if not more so. When assessing candidates, keep in mind that aptitude and personality are just as influential in job performance as experience and education.
When evaluating candidates, these are some of the top soft skills you should look for:
1. Critical Thinking Skills
The ability to logically and objectively think through problems is useful for any position. Critical thinkers are better able to fairly and effectively resolve issues that may arise on the job.
Being able to communicate effectively - both speaking and writing - is crucial for any job. The most successful employees are almost always excellent at communicating with their fellow employees, their managers, and customers, whether it’s online, in emails, or over the phone. They also know how to use body language and tone to support their message and know that it’s important to listen to their coworkers’ and clients’ concerns and ideas.
One of the most advantageous, yet elusive, qualities a candidate can possess is strong leadership skills. Good leaders know how to make tough decisions and excel at managing situations and people. They can plan out how to reach a goal and then effectively motivate their team to work together to reach that goal. By hiring candidates with strong leadership skills, you’re hiring employees that can bolster productivity and morale and potentially move on to fill management roles in your company.
4. Positive Attitude
One of the best things a candidate can bring to the table is a positive attitude. A negative attitude can affect an office like a plague. Hiring just one employee who complains, criticizes, or gossips can incite this behavior in the rest of the office. Pretty soon, this will wreak havoc on company morale, collaboration, and motivation, which can take a toll on productivity. Moreover, it can damage your company’s reputation, increase turnover, and deter top talent from applying.
Teamwork skills are what separate those who can accomplish small achievements with those who can accomplish monumental ones. The best employees understand that individual success can never measure up to the success of a group. They’re willing to compromise, listen to their coworkers, and encourage cooperation. They’re reliable and willing to rely on others. Candidates who are good at teamwork are often selfless and excellent communicators. One result of hiring candidates with excellent teamwork skills is less strife in the office, projects getting done more efficiently, and a healthy company culture.
6. Work Ethic
It’s worth doing a little work upfront to figure out which candidates are willing to work hard for your company. Candidates with a strong work ethic will go the extra mile for your company. They won’t start to slack a few months into their new job. Hard workers have grit – they are perseverant, reliable, punctual, and produce quality work without complaining about it.
Companies often outcompete each other by outthinking each other. That’s why it’s so important to hire employees who can think outside the box. Creative employees offer new ideas for projects, solutions to existing issues, inventive strategies to outmaneuver competitors, and ways to make the company more efficient. Many highly successful businesses - Zappos, Apple, and Google, to name a few - are known for trying to foster creative work cultures. For instance, Google recently partnered with Cannes Lions to produce their Creative Campus, a program designed to inspire and hire creative talent. Since 2014, Apple has hired various magazine art directors to work on their marketing campaigns, and Zappos is renowned for their eccentric interview questions.
Another trait you should look for when evaluating candidates is dependability. Candidates who can demonstrate that they are responsible, loyal, and hardworking are often the most dependable. Hiring dependable employees can reduce turnover, preserve the confidentiality of private company and client information, and ensure that work is high-quality and on-schedule.
Finally, when making hiring decisions, strive to hire candidates that exhibit a strong attention to detail. Meticulous employees make less mistakes, taking the time to catch errors that can save your company time and money in the long run.
How to Measure Soft Skills
Fortunately, there are other ways besides just gut feeling to test for these types of skills. You can tailor your interview questions to identify candidates with superior soft skills (for inspiration, check out the three questions Criteria Corp CEO Josh Millet asks every candidate). You can also opt to use pre-employment personality assessments to see how well an applicant’s personality traits align with the position they’re applying to.
While factors like education and experience should always be considered when making hiring decisions, it’s important not to forget that an applicant’s soft skills can also make a strong impact on their future work performance. Some applicants that lack an esteemed education or a plethora of experience may still have a lot to contribute to the office if they have the right work ethic, interpersonal skills, and attitude for the job.