A diverse group of five people sits around a table for a meeting. One person, a blonde White woman, stands and looks down at a paper on the table, appearing to read from it. The others around the table consult their own papers.
Teamwork and communication are two vital soft skills that employees should cultivate. — Getty Images/fizkes

In today’s workforce, job applicants who demonstrate strong soft skills are in high demand because businesses know they can adapt to various situations, meet unforeseen problems with innovative solutions and, most importantly, be a positive influence on their company’s culture.

While the value of any applicant’s hard skills should not be understated, you should carefully evaluate candidates’ soft skills before extending a job offer. Below, we outlined the definition of soft skills and provided examples of some soft skills to look for in potential employees.

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

Definition of soft skills

Unlike hard skills that can be taught, such as coding, bookkeeping or writing, soft skills are thought to be somewhat inherent, a part of your personality, and are developed over time as experience is gained. These traits can be defined by your attitude, motivation, adaptability and overall personality.

For example, a hard skill for a software engineer may be proficiency in a specific coding language. A soft skill, on the other hand, is the ability to communicate with coworkers effectively and explain complex scenarios in simple terms.

Today, interviewers work to uncover and understand a person’s personality and character. They look for those intangible and unquantifiable qualities in a person to determine whether or not they’ll be a good fit for the job and the culture of the company. Your business should do the same to ensure you hire the right person.

Four important types of soft skills

Soft skills are vital to the health of any organization. If you hire an employee without a combination of several soft skills, you may find it more difficult to work with that person than with others on your team. In a worst-case scenario, one employee with poor soft skills may irreparably damage your company culture and cause stellar employees to exit the company.

The following personality traits are some of the most important to look for in job applicants:

Communication

Strong communication skills are arguably the most important soft skill to find in a candidate because they can have positive long-term repercussions throughout your organization. To be proficient in this soft skill, employees must have a deep understanding of your clients or customers, have the ability to explain the “how” and the “why” and be able to break complex concepts into fundamental, easy-to-understand components.

A person with strong communication skills knows how to communicate through verbal and written communication, and they also understand how their nonverbal communication impacts others. So, when you are ready to hire a new employee, look for candidates who demonstrate the following traits and abilities:

  • Active listening skills.
  • Natural storytelling ability.
  • Positive body language.
  • Confidence speaking in a group.
  • Writes clear instructions.
  • Explains complex topics in simple terms.

[Read more: Soft Skills: What They Are and How to Test for Them]

Strong communication skills are arguably the most important soft skill to find in a candidate...

Time management

Hiring people with solid time management skills can quickly increase your business’s efficiency. Managers and employees who know how to organize their workflow, properly prioritize their tasks and plan ahead will give you the best opportunity to succeed.

Conversely, if an employee—or team—mismanages time, it’s likely they will miss deadlines, which can quickly derail critical projects. A team member lacking in time management skills can also become a drain on your business’s resources. This is especially true if other members of your team plan their processes around that person.

To identify this soft skill in candidates, look for individuals who demonstrate the following traits and behaviors:

  • Highly organized.
  • Attentive during conversations.
  • Arrives to the interview on time.
  • Responds to emails in a timely manner.
  • Able to work independently.
  • Gives examples of times when their team has relied on them in the past.

Teamwork

Regardless of which position you are looking to fill, potential employees must be able to work well with others, even if the position doesn’t require them to work on team projects. A candidate who brings a positive energy to the table and gets along with others will save your business a lot of unnecessary headache over time. However, this individual must also be professional and kind even when they disagree with a peer.

During your interviews with potential candidates, make sure you ask questions or design assessments that will illustrate the following traits:

  • Accepts feedback.
  • Looks to understand the larger picture.
  • Establishes a rapport with others.
  • Shows empathy towards others.
  • Acts like a leader.

Critical thinking

Today, every office worker lists their proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite or Google Workspace on their resume, but how do they use these tools to make their work more efficient? Having a specific hard skill is not the same as being able to solve complex problems creatively and effectively.

When you’re interviewing candidates, ask them to describe a time in which they used their critical thinking skills to solve a problem, or ask them to explain a hypothetical problem to the applicant and ask them how they would solve it. Listen carefully to what they have to say and watch for the following traits and behaviors:

  • Thinks carefully before responding.
  • Adapts to new information.
  • Understands the roots of the problem.
  • Asks critical questions.
  • Describes creative or even innovative solutions.
  • Is willing to learn.

Candidates who struggle to demonstrate critical thinking in an interview over a hypothetical situation may not be able to devise solutions on the job. However, if a candidate is eager and shows they have soft skills in other areas, they can always develop these traits.

[Read more: 5 Steps for Creating an Employee Development Plan]


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 November 04, 2020