Soft skills refer to a set of non-technical skills that are essential to perform a job efficiently. Regardless of how excellent an employee is at performing the technical aspects of a job, if he or she lacks the needed soft skills for the given position, it may severely impact that employee’s productivity.
Research also implies that in an era where technology, engineering, and science should be given preference, 80% of the companies are now struggling to find people with better soft skills. LinkedIn 2019 talent trends report presents some more interesting facts that 89% of the bad hires lack soft skills whereas 92% of the hiring managers believe that soft skills are more important than technical skills.
Now you may be thinking what are the factors that increase the importance of these skills to this extent? The ability to deliver projects timely, communicate effectively with clients, getting along well with a team and avoiding conflicts are the requirements for most jobs today.
However, for the HR team, soft skills assessment becomes a real challenge despite its importance because these soft skills are mostly personal and can be difficult to measure.
This article will give you a list of top soft skills that you may look for in your new hires along with some smart tips to assess them during interviews.
1. Communication Skills
Corporate recruiters enlist communication skills as the most desired soft skill in their employees. This is because every organization wants employees who can represent it professionally on the phone and in person. Most companies also need employees who can deliver outstanding presentations even if they are engaged in back-end work all the time.
However, it is important to know that communication skills are not limited to oral skills, written skills also matter a lot for various job positions, and you must be able to evaluate both.
To assess verbal communication skills, you can build your questionnaire such as:
- How would you describe yourself? (This question will help you assess the candidate’s logical flow in conversation and language skills)
- What is your preferred mode of communication? Email, phone, or in-person? (This will help you know their communication preference)
- If one of the candidate’s job responsibilities is to prepare and deliver presentations, ask them how will you engage the audience when delivering a presentation? (This will help you determine if they can make things interesting for the audience)
- What would you do if a customer approaches you and says that your competitors are better than you? (This can help you judge their ability to convince others)
- If you are hiring someone whose work involves speaking to customers, ask them how would you handle an aggressive client? (You can see how well they control their emotion and if they use polite words)
- Why do you think we should hire you?
Similarly, some strategies can help you judge written communication skills, for example:
- Ask for a writing sample.
- Look at the candidate’s resume for spelling and grammar mistakes.
- Use assignments that are similar to the job responsibilities. For example, ask candidate to write a sample email.
- Assess their written communication skills from the email communication they made with you prior to the interview.
- Ask if they proofread their emails to check for errors.
Assessing communication skills is a must have when building your soft skills assessment questionnaire.
2. Time Management
Time management measures one’s ability to use their time effectively and in a productive manner.
Managing time properly is a necessary trait as it determines if your candidate will be able to meet deadlines and goals and can contribute to overall organizational objectives.
To assess time management skills, add the following questions to your soft skills assessment questionnaire.
- How do you prioritize tasks?
- How do you ensure that you will meet deadlines? Or ask, how would you ensure that you complete a task within a short deadline?
- If there are a lot of distractions during your work and you must deliver your project the next day, what would you do?
- Do you often take work home?
- Ask about the turnaround time? For example, if you are hiring a content writer, ask how long it will take you to complete a 500 words article.
- How open are you to taking on additional responsibility when required?
3. Taking Ownership of Assigned Work
Taking ownership is a skill that reflects employee’s ability to complete the assigned work with a sense of responsibility and accountability. People with this skill believe that they have to take the initiative and it is their responsibility to meet the quality and time-related objectives associated with their assigned tasks. Individuals with a high level of accountability for their work possess this trait.
It is challenging to find people with this skill but it’s not impossible. Here are some tips.
- How will you ensure that your project meets quality standards, and your work is delivered on time?
- How important it is for you to meet a deadline and give an example of when you had to ask for an extension?
- Provide them a scenario and ask questions that show their sense of responsibility. For example, if you have to manage an event and you are left with a couple of days, how will you ensure that all the invitations are sent, and other arrangements are made?
- If you are leading a project which stalls at some point due to a team member underperforming, what will you do to keep the project running?
Especially when you are hiring for a senior role, measuring candidate’s sense of ownership and responsibility is a must have and should be part of your soft skills assessment questionnaire.
4. Follow Up / Timely Response to Stakeholders
Another essential soft skill is the ability to follow through and provide timely responses to stakeholders. Most project delays occur when you are unable to get timely feedback from parties engaged in a project. As a result, you will miss deadlines and get stuck in the project. However, some people are good at seeking inputs and responding on time to the stakeholders. These individuals can prove to be a real asset to your company.
The following questions can help you discover this skill in a candidate.
- How do you ensure that you respond to your stakeholders on time?
- What will you do if someone is not responding to your email and their input is necessary for your task to complete?
- How important do you think it is to keep your stakeholders informed?
- If you have assigned a task to your subordinate, which they are supposed to submit it in 15 days, will you inquire about work progress in between?
- Ask them if they are working remotely, which platforms do they use to communicate with their stakeholders? How often do they check their messages and respond?
Following up and responding to stakeholders in a timely manner is another mandatory skill you need to add to your soft skills assessment questionnaire.
5. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is also predicted to be one of the most wanted skills in 2021. This skill points to an individual’s ability to understand their own emotions, emotions of people around them, and responding in the best possible manner. This intellect helps a person manage teams, conflicts, and remain productive in any situation. Let’s first understand what constitutes emotional intelligence.
According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, it includes
- Social skills
Some tips that may help you evaluate candidate’s level of emotional intelligence include looking at their body language and asking the questions that evaluate their emotional strength such as the following.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? (This question demonstrates their self-awareness)
- How will you manage your frustration while listening to the complaints of your client or a subordinate?
- How will you handle criticism by your supervisor if he/she finds shortcomings in your work? For example, you can ask a developer, how will you respond if your teammates find bugs in your code?
- Ask them about a scenario when they had some conflict with their supervisors and how did they handle it? (The idea is to measure how the candidate handles potential negative feedback)
- What inspires you and why (This helps you measure their motivation)
- Ask them if they were to lead a team, what kind of people they would like to hire? (It measures what do they value the most? People or outcome.)
- Mention something that you are proud of and why? Do you think that somebody has helped you achieve that goal? (This shows if a person feels gratitude for another person’s contribution in their achievement. This also helps you evaluate their ability to socialize and teamwork)
If you want to thrive as an innovative business, you need to find employees who think outside the box.
Whether it’s reaching out to your customers, hiring competent individuals, developing software, or drafting a technical report, creativity is the key to making a difference.
Here are some questions to help you assess this skill during interviews.
- Do you ever criticize your work? Why?
- Tell me about a business problem that you had to solve uniquely or innovatively. What was the outcome?
- What is the most creative idea or project you have executed in your current role? How was it received?
- Tell us about a time when you challenged the opinion of your supervisor and provided a better solution.
- Present a problem and let them solve it. It will also help you analyze critical thinking and problem-solving skills as both of these skills are the traits of a creative individual.
7. Self Confidence
Self-confidence is a building block for many other soft and hard skills.
If your candidate is confident, he/she will experience less fear related to the job, turn out to be more vocal and creative. An employee’s ability to solve problems, taking risks, and working under pressure will also be more refined due to their confidence level. Confident individuals are also more likely to make timely decisions because they are not afraid of facing odd circumstances.
Thinking about how to measure this fundamental attribute? Measuring self-confidence is possible using the following tips.
- Observe their eye contact.
- Evaluate their facial expression. Are they enjoying the interview process?
- Ask if you are given a task you are not aware of how to do, will you reject the task or accept it as a challenge? (acceptance shows that they have the confidence to find a solution)
Last but not the least, teamwork is also another necessary soft skill for professionals. Teamwork means a person can work with others towards some common goal. These individuals want to seek opinions from coworkers, encourage and motivate fellow team members, celebrate and share achievements with others.
This trait can be easily assessed during an interview. Some of the questions that may help you include the following.
- Do you prefer to work as a team member, or do you want to work independently?
- Have you ever found it difficult to work with a coworker?
- What strategies would you like to use when your team is demotivated?
- Do you like to make friends at the workplace?
- When you need to make a decision, do you prefer seeking an opinion?
The above article provides some practical strategies for soft skills assessment when hiring. However, there are various other soft skills that you may consider according to the nature of the job that you are interviewing. Just make sure your questions are phrased properly. Look at our Forbidden Interview Questions list to avoid asking illegal questions during an interview.