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Some skills, like empathy and adaptability, are not taught in school. — Getty Images/SDI Productions

When you are ready to hire new employees, you'll want to evaluate candidates on more than just their technical skills and experience. Sure, they’re proficient in the software and systems your business uses, but are they a hard worker? Do they write and send emails in a professional manner? Are they willing to stay after hours to get a project done right? While you want your prospective hires to have strong industry and technical experience, you also want to make sure they have the inherent skills that add productivity to your workflow and a positive attitude to your company culture.

If you’re in or about to start the hiring process here are some soft skills to look for and how to test for them.

[Read: 8 Top Recruiting Tools for Hiring Managers]

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are inherent nontechnical skills that impact how a person communicates and works with others. They are not learned through schooling, however they can be developed and nurtured over time through focus discipline. Some of the most crucial soft skills that are desirable in an employee include:

  • Written and verbal communication.
  • Time management.
  • Empathy.
  • Teamwork.
  • Adaptability.
  • Curiosity.
  • Networking.

A candidate with great soft skills can still have a few nervous tendencies during an interview.

Ways to test for soft skills

While looking at the above list you may think to yourself, “It would be great to have someone possess these skills, but how can I assess them?” If you ask someone in an interview if they’re a hard worker, they’ll of course say yes. You can’t really tell until you see them in practice. Here are some ways to be mindful of and ask about when testing a candidate's soft skills:

[Read: 7 Important Soft Skills to Grow Your Career]

Pay attention to their social cues

Social cues are a major indication of a person’s soft skills and their ability to work in an office setting. Do they greet the receptionist on their way in? Are they making eye contact and smiling? Is their body language generally open and expressive or closed off? These small signs can be indicative of how open a person is to their work environment and how comfortable they are in new settings with new people. Don’t over-analyze every stutter or look downward, though. A candidate with great soft skills can still have a few nervous tendencies during an interview.

Have them list their soft skills as strengths

Ask the candidate directly to list what soft skills they believe are their strengths. This allows you to see how the candidate assesses themselves and what they believe their strongest soft skills are. Ask them for specific examples of when they’ve used these soft skills in the past and what the resolution of those situations was. If the skills they list and discuss are the ones you find essential in an employee, then they may be compatible for the job. If not, then maybe they aren't the best fit.

Have them take a personality test for soft skills

A Berke personality assessment is a test that measures seven personality traits and four cognitive traits. You can have the candidate take the test at the end of the interview and have them assess themselves by answering the questions. The Berke assessment is customizable to your job and company culture, so when you get the results back you can see who specifically a good fit for your business is. The test also provides you with clear guidelines for making an informed hiring decision based on the results.

Allow them to display their soft skills

It’s one thing to say you have — and think you have — certain soft skills, but it’s another to use them in action. Put candidates in a real situation that allows them to demonstrate their soft skills firsthand. You can ask them to take an assessment, work on a small project or put them in a job audition. This will put them in a situation where they have to react in real time and can’t give a rehearsed answer. You and your team can assess how they behave when taking the test or work with others to see if what their soft skills are and if they’d be a good fit.

[Read: Beyond Buzzwords: 6 Steps Toward Hiring and Fostering a Diverse Team]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published October 22, 2020