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Soft skills – how to assess them
Soft or non-technical skills, are transferable skills which can be applied in many different types of jobs. They are the personal qualities and attitudes which may help a candidate work well with others and make a positive contribution to your organisation.
While technical skills can be taught on the job, something like critical thinking or effective communication can’t. There are several techniques that employers can use to evaluate a candidate’s soft skills.
Important soft skills
When problems arise, does your candidate take the initiative to resolve them on their own, or do they wait until someone else tells them to do it? Ask your candidate to describe a time they independently identified a problem in the workplace and the steps they took to correct it.
Communication skills are important in most industries and job settings. One of the first ways to evaluate a candidate’s communication skills is by looking at their cover letter. A well written, error free cover letter and CV is a good indication that the candidate is articulate. Verbal communication skills can be assessed at the interview stage.
Decision making abilities
Good decision making requires critical thinking and critical thinking demands self-awareness, particularly of subconscious bias. Ask candidates to describe and explain a decision they made that ran counter to a personal bias.
Ability to learn from the past
The ability to learn from the past and apply that learning to new situations shows intelligence and flexibility. Give your candidate a hypothetical problem to solve that lies outside of their past experiences. Can they take what they know and use that knowledge on something new?
Ability to work as a team
The ability to work in a team is important for most jobs – It enables you to accomplish tasks faster and more efficiently than tackling projects individually. Cooperating together on various tasks reduces workloads for all employees by enabling them to share responsibilities or ideas.
Behavioural interview questions
Behavioural interview questions are those that are based on real life experiences, as opposed to hypothetical situations. These questions are probably the most effective way to evaluate the above soft skills during an interview.
By asking for real life examples, you'll get more insight into how well the candidate works under pressure, how they communicate and their work ethic. Some examples of behavioural interview questions include the following.
- Describe a time when you had a problem with a supervisor and what you did to resolve it.
- Tell me about a time when you had difficulty getting others to work together on a critical problem and how you handled it.
- Tell me about the best leader you have worked with, why you felt this way, and what you learned from that person.
- Describe a problem you faced that was almost overwhelming and how you got through it.
- Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?
- Have you handled a difficult situation with a client or vendor? How?
How candidates’ current and former colleagues speak of them can say volumes. Make sure you call for references and don’t forget to look for recommendations on LinkedIn profiles too. Paying attention to soft skills before and during your interview will mean you’ll benefit in the long run, with a new hire who is a good fit for the role in real life, not just on paper.
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