Assessing the soft skills

Soft skills are the personal qualities of a person, which will make the person successful at the job. Hard skills are important and needed for most jobs, but they are not enough to make the person perfect for the job.

A person might be great on paper, with the right qualification and right years of experience needed for the job. They are knowledgeable and that is a good starting point.

But what if this person isn’t able to collaborate with his/her colleagues? What if they aren’t able to solve problems? What if they do not know how to communicate? Such skills are needed for any job.

Identify the soft skills

Employers should identify what soft skills are needed for every job within the company. The soft skills needed will also vary from one company to another. Some jobs may require leadership skills, other may require critical thinking skills, and so on.

And as important as the soft skills are, they are as difficult to assess at interview stage. They are even more difficult to assess from a CV.

Assess the soft skills

Using effective questions gives you a better chance of noticing any red flags. Questions such as ‘are you a good team player?’ are only going to provide you with a ‘yes’ answer (it is highly unlikely that a candidate will answer ‘no’ to that question!). Asking behavioural and situational questions may give you better answers.

Behavioural questions ask candidates to give examples from their life experiences. Such questions would usually start with ‘Tell me about a time when…’.

Situational questions may be asked by giving employees a real work situation (or a hypothetical one) and asking them to explain to you how they would solve or deal with the situation. You may also wish to ask them to highlight to you which of their skills they would use when handling this situation.

Psychometric assessments are also possible options for assessing soft skills. They may, however, be a costly option.

Another approach to assessing is seeing how they interact with other people they come across when they entered the office building. How did they interact with the receptionist? An effective way of doing this is by asking the employees themselves, such as the receptionist, to systematically observe. It may be worth asking more than one person to carry out the observation, so as to remove any possible bias.

Group exercises, which can be observed, during an assessment centre are also typically used to assess the soft skills. You may not necessarily wish to bring potential candidates together, so you may opt for carrying out the exercises by involving a few existing employees.

There is no perfect solution to assessing the soft skills, but investing more time by using different techniques may reduce the likelihood of making a bad match.

About the author

Maria Bartolo Zahra is Managing Director and HR Advisor at SurgeAdvisory. She has over fifteen years of human resources and business advisory experience.