What are Soft Skills?
Soft skills, also known as transferrable or employability skills, are the skills that we use to interact with other people and our environment. They are the personal traits and abilities that affect employees’ performance at work; they help shape how employees communicate and build relationships with colleagues, cope with changes, and resolve conflicts or issues.
The great thing about soft skills is that they are transferable across roles and industries. Whereas hard skills are more about technical knowledge (e.g. know-how), soft skills are more about personal attitudes and behaviour (e.g. the way you would do or react to something).
Check out our What are Soft Skills? blog post for more information about soft skills.
How do Soft Skills Benefit Employers?
Hiring the right candidates can have an enormous impact on the success of a company.
A report by LinkedIn found that 89% of companies stated that unsuccessful new hires often lacked the necessary soft skills to succeed in the role. Additionally, research suggests that previous work experience, a common requirement when hiring, is not always a good indication of future performance in a new role. This could be due to the differences in responsibilities between two roles with the same job title.
Soft skills are vital because they are transferable across roles and responsibilities and can help to:
- Indicate whether someone is a good fit for the company
- Facilitate professional growth and career progression
- Help build an effective and collaborative workforce
- Boost productivity and innovation
- Are essential for leaders who manage and motivate others
How to Assess Soft Skills in Candidates/Employees
Job Application Forms
- Encourage candidates to provide examples in their job applications by including desired soft skills in the job description
- Note extracurricular activities, e.g. sport memberships, which may demonstrate collaboration and social skills
- Ask open-ended and non-leading behavioural questions to encourage candidates to reflect on how they have previously acted in certain situations. Problem-solving questions like “tell me about a time when you solved a problem at work” are common behavioural questions
- Pay attention to candidates’ behaviours during the interview; communication, body language, eye contact, and whether they interrupt you, are common clues. Be careful not to rely on your own subjective impressions of a candidate. Structured interviews with standardised questions can minimise interviewer bias
- Be aware of factors that may influence a candidate’s performance, including anxiety or disability. Neurodiverse candidates, for example, may avoid eye contact or struggle with concentration and communication
- Use psychometric assessments such as ability tests and personality questionnaires. These can complement interviews by helping employers pick up on traits that are more difficult to observe in interviews
- Personality questionnaires can help you identify candidates and employees’ work, problem-solving, interpersonal, and stress-management styles. Ability tests can be used to measure skills like communication, reasoning, and attention to detail