October 17, 2018
Hiring 16 May 2017
Evaluating Soft Skills
Dillon Chen
how to evaluate softskills, softskills

While it’s important for candidates to possess technical skills, it is even more important for them to possess soft skills. Soft skills are “desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude”. 

In simpler terms, these are the "people skills", or the “street smarts” of the business world. They aren’t really measurable in any specific quantifiable way, but soft skills are the social abilities needed from employees for the overall success of a company. These are what determine how a person is going to interact with others, whether it be coworkers, leadership, or clients. Soft skills include: 

  • Attitude
  • Communication (both listening and speaking skills)
  • Work ethic
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership qualities
  • Time management
  • Decision making
  • Conflict resolution
  • Critical thinking
  • Networking
  • Work ethic
  • Empathy
  • Problem-solving
  • And many, many more!

Having employees with soft skills is so vital as most jobs require employees to engage with others. In addition, soft skills are transferable skills. Unlike hard skills, like knowing how to crunch numbers efficiently, soft skills can be adapted to any position. Having employees with soft skills can help a company grow, run efficiently, and promote excellent company culture. But with soft skills being much harder to test than hard skills, how do you evaluate them?Like anything else, the best way to figure out the answers is through tests. A good way to conduct a simple and easy test is to run candidates through a series of scenarios. Give them problems and envision situations for them that require soft skills. Instead of posing fictitious scenarios, try asking them about real situations that occurred within your company. Ask them to walk you through how they would handle the situation.  Be sure to ask them to identify which soft skills are needed while they are walking you through it. 

Evaluating a candidate’s soft skill set is difficult to do with just an interview. Asking questions is not enough to evaluate soft skills. Candidates vying for a position want to make a good impression and get the job, so they will say things that make them seem to be a good fit. In order to efficiently evaluate soft skills, companies must use alternative and creative methods. 

Here are some different methods to evaluate your candidates’ soft skills:


Engage with your candidates

Pretty self-explanatory huh? 

Any interaction with a candidate is an excellent indicator of how sociable and “socially able” they are. Make use of valuable time to get a good understanding of what they’re like. Don’t just interview with them, interact! 

Interview questions that are structured properly can help you identify the soft skills that the candidate has. They can give you a look into how they respond in certain situations or to different challenges.

When asking questions, engage in open-ended questions. Instead of questions starting out with, “do you” try starting out with, “what are your thoughts on” or “how.” Ask them to explain things in a different method. For example, ask them to explain their answer in different scenarios. How would they respond to a high profile client as opposed to an elderly customer? 

Some examples of behavior-based questions to ask:

  • Describe how they usually develop relationships with coworkers and supervisors
  • A problem they solved in a creative way
  • A time they had to deal with someone who was difficult to deal with
  • Describe their ideal work environment and communication method
  • Share a time they needed help or guidance on a project
  • Share a time they had communication problems with their boss or coworkers. How did they handle the situation?

Consider meeting candidates in an informal setting, where they will be more comfortable to speak. Take them for a lunch meeting and observe how they interact with the waiter. Do they have a different tone with the waiter then they do with you? Or ask the receptionist how they interacted with them? Small clues like these are huge indicators of a candidate’s soft skills. 

Communication skills

Verbal communication skills can indicate whether or not candidates will fit in. This depends a lot on the culture and environment your employees work in, so figure out what communication soft skills will work best for your team! 

For example, if you are a startup, keep in mind that not all candidates thrive in a startup environment. Know what skills work the best for your company, and know what skills can be taught versus which ones they should already come with. 

Engaging in a conversation will help you determine whether or not a candidate possesses good communication skills, which is arguably the most important soft skill.

A huge part of communication involves listening. Be sure to observe whether or not the candidate is listening and paying attention. Are they interrupting, do their eyes glaze over? Again, look for small clues. 

Verbal cues are so important to be able to evaluate a candidate’s soft skills. For example, when asking them about a previous team challenge, did they use “I” or “we” more often? This will give you a chance to see if the candidate is a team player and whether or not he takes or gives credit where it is deserved. Also be sure to observe whether or not the candidate asks you any questions about the company or yourself.  No one wants a self-absorbed employee. 


Writing Skills

Something else to keep in mind?

How a candidate writes can be just as important as verbal communication when it comes to hiring. 

Writing is a soft skill that candidates should have before they start working for you. Confirm that their resume, cover letter, and email interactions are articulate and error-free. A simple writing task challenge can help you easily analyze their writing skill.

One job I applied for had a full on grammar/punctuation test where I had to correct a whole page of text that had a bunch of little errors scattered throughout. It was also filled with some high-level industry jargon that I would be dealing with in the job. 

Misspellings and punctuation errors from your employees are unprofessional and reflect poorly on your company, so it’s important to test for this if written interaction with others is common in your job. 


Challenges

Shorter than projects usually lasting around 24-48 hours, challenges are another technique to measure soft skills. Similar to a design sprint, these challenges help solve a specific problem and accomplish something for the company. Great for idea brainstorm sessions coming up with campaign ideas(creativity) quick market research (data analysis), or skills-based tests. 

Skills-based tests, in particular, are an excellent way to analyze a variety of soft skills. How do you use this? 

If you were looking to hire a software engineer you could host a 24-48 hr hackathon. You could give your candidates the guidelines and have them work together or on a team. 

The challenge could even be to improve a feature of your current software or tackle another issue you've been experiencing. If you're using a product like ProSky you'll be able to watch your candidates code and work in real-time.

There are many benefits to projects and challenges for any position you're looking to fill from software to marketing. Projects and challenges not only are great ways to evaluate candidates in real-time, but also give the candidate insight into the company culture and the types of projects they might be working on. 


Projectships

Projectships are a super efficient way to evaluate soft skills. A projectship is essentially a project internship, and it's a great way to evaluate ALL soft skills such as leadership qualities, teamwork, time management, communication skills, etc. By allowing candidates to work together on a project you are killing two birds with one stone. The company is getting something achieved, and you are able to evaluate the candidate’s soft skills. 

Here at ProSky, we offer projectships through our platform to evaluate skills. Skill evaluation is done by putting groups of potential hires into these team projects with specified roles, then analyzing how they work together and react in real-life situations. 

Time management and being able to deliver on a schedule are soft skills that can’t really be taught. Having a time limit puts a bit of pressure on the candidates and lets you see how they perform on a deadline as well as what attitude they approach this type of situation with. 

Recruiters can see candidate interactions and thought processes as they work through the project. They can use this information to determine who is contributing the most. See a candidate takes the lead and is able to bring everybody together?

That’s a good indicator to hire that person!

Through projectships, candidates work with mentors and existing teams from your own company. This allows you to see how they fit in your work environment as if they were actually working for you. In addition, you will get feedback from current employees on candidate’s performance and how they feel they fit in the company’s culture. 

Candidates also get a chance to see what their job would be like if they get the position. Win-win for both sides! 

Although candidates work on projects in groups, they are still largely independent when it comes to working on tasks. Use this to evaluate soft skills like dependability, hard work, and going beyond what is asked. 


Recommendations, referrals & social profiles

Looking at resumes and references provided by candidates can sometimes be misleading and will only get you so far. If you’re serious about a candidate, you may need to do some cyber stalking!

Looking at social media profiles help you see beyond the facade that people put up in an interview. It’s a great way to see their personality and what they are truly like. 

Social Media allows you to see the kind of people they are connected with and how they interact with others. Are they articulate and personable? Or do they write profanities and treat others rudely?

Digital profiles are a wonderful resource to see what kind of soft skills they have and what others think of them. If they’re trying to get hired for a social media position, it is useful for seeing how they promote themselves through their own profile! 

Check to see if your candidates conduct themselves professionally and that their profile pictures and posts support the image they conveyed in your interactions. Finding out their interests and hobbies can also determine if they are a likely fit for your company. 

Find out more about soft skill evaluations and other hiring strategies by subscribing to our blog! You’ll find lots of tips and insights into cutting-edge tactics to improve your hiring process.  

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