Hiring and recruiting practices have largely revolved around hard skills or what a candidate can do. Today, recruiters are becoming more and more aware of the value of soft skills, which affect how people do their jobs, interact with others, and develop themselves. Unlike hard skills, which are often developed on the job or through training, soft skills are difficult to develop and may be impossible to foster in a hire who doesn’t show desired traits.
This is increasingly leading to a trend in hiring for soft skills that make a candidate a good fit for the role, focusing on hard skills as secondary in importance and learnable. You’ll always find people with necessary technical skills, but soft skills determine how hires will adapt, learn, work in teams, and solve problems in the work environment.
Crucial soft skills to look for
While soft skills will naturally vary depending on the specific role and its output, the following 6 soft skills were identified as crucial for many roles in LinkedIn’s Emerging Jobs Report as well as by CEOs including Google’s Eric Schmidt.
Agility is a soft skill that overlaps heavily with adaptability and ingenuity, which plays into nearly every interaction in a work environment. Hires who show agility can adapt quickly to new circumstances, learn new tools easily, find creative solutions to problems, and self-start.
In one study by Millennial Branding, 43% of recruiters listed culture fit as among the most important soft skills for making a hire. This ‘skill’ is less about what you can do or how you do it and more about how you do it. For example, a technically company needs someone who is careful and traditional and willing to follow procedures, even in a relatively agile or fast-paced environment. Unfortunately, a good culture fit changes a great deal depending on the company, but it overall encompasses how well the person is likely to mesh into the existing work environment and standards.
Communication overlaps with collaboration or teamwork and is a crucial skill in any workplace and any role. This translates to both working in teams and effectively communicating ideas and intentions and working in customer-facing roles, where good communication skills can make or break a customer relationship. While there are naturally different levels and aspects of communication that should be looked at depending on the person’s role (an IT developer does not likely need strong written communication skills), showing good communication in and before an interview and during the assessment is a good sign that the candidate can and will do so inside their role.
While many companies favor creativity and ingenuity over persistence, psychologist Adam Grant argues that all three tie in together. His research on skilled, successful, and creative people shows that persistence is the common trait behind creative solutions, success in the workplace, and even solving problems.
LinkedIn’s 2017 Emerging Jobs Report surveyed over 1,200 recruiters who listed growth potential as a top soft skill to look for. This trait encompasses both having a positive attitude and a willingness or ability to learn – enabling the candidate to develop themselves to either move up or continue to progress as their role develops.
Prioritization and time management is a crucial aspect of performance, and one that is being looked at in both competency management and recruitment. Why? Employees who can prioritize value-added and important tasks without being bogged down in meetings and low-level tasks that don’t achieve anything tend to have a considerably higher output with a greater impact on organizational productivity.
Soft skills are becoming increasingly important in the hiring process, and for good reason. While technical skills will never be irrelevant, it is easier and faster to train someone a hard skill like using Excel than it is to train a soft skill like a willingness to learn or drive.