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LinkedIn research reveals the value of soft skills

How can you tell who’s got the right kind? A LinkedIn senior director of talent acquisition offers some pointers.

LinkedIn research reveals the value of soft skills
[Photo: rawpixel/Unsplash]

One thing is for sure: We’re pretty much all on the same page when it comes to the importance of soft skills. LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report showed that 92% of talent professionals and hiring managers say that soft skills are just as important–or more important–than hard skills.

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Creativity, persuasion, and collaboration are the top three most in-demand soft skills for companies today. As technology automates hard skills faster, the driving demand for employees to be able to think outside of the box, navigate change, and work well with others is becoming increasingly more important. The report revealed that not only is measuring soft skills not easy, but when leaders eventually identify the lack thereof, it’s after they’ve already made the hire. In fact, 89% of respondents said “bad hires” typically lack soft skills.

But how can you determine which job applicants possess the right ones?

Figure out which soft skills matter most to your company

First, determine which attributes rank higher than others for your company and your team. To do this, consider your top performers as a blueprint and identify the soft skills that have contributed to their successes. Google, for example, identified eight key skills of successful leaders at the company, noting that while technical skills are certainly important, these leaders most often demonstrate inherently human qualities, like listening and asking questions.

Your company culture also depends on your employees to maintain certain attributes. For example, if your employees need to be able to adjust on the fly to evolving roles, learning agility would be key. Greg Muccio, director of people at Southwest Airlines, says soft skills are actually “essential skills.” Top soft skills at Southwest include communication, teamwork, relationship building, balance, and reliability.

Once you’re clear on which soft skills matter most, make sure your team agrees on how you define them. Is good communication based on both written and oral skills? Is it about keeping colleagues in the loop, or being able to build consensus? Does someone with “grit” demonstrate courage, or is it that they persevere through ambiguity? Agreement on these definitions early on can prevent conflicts down the road.

Update your interview tactics

In the Global Talent Trends report, we learned that 57% of talent professionals struggle to assess soft skills. That’s an overwhelming number of people who could be losing time and money in hiring candidates who may not stick around. But there are new and interesting ways to make this easier on your hiring team.

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One of the top assessments for soft skills is asking behavioral questions, with 75% of talent professionals agreeing that this is their assessment of choice. Problem-solving questions allow candidates to use their hard and soft skills to get to a solution, but the challenge is that these methods haven’t changed over the past few decades.

That’s changing, however. With companies starting to turn to AI solutions such as Pymetrics, we see technology start to help shape soft skill assessments in the future. These online assessments, which include games, quizzes, etc., analyze the way candidates respond and assess their soft skills systematically and in some regard, with less bias. These insights can help guide your interviews to the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

Find consistency in a formalized process

Despite the increasing value of soft skills, the majority of companies lack a formal process for assessing them in interviews. In fact, only 41% of talent professionals say they have a formal process to assess soft skills, which typically means relying on hiring managers to assess them subjectively by picking up on social cues.

Inconsistent and unstructured interviews also open the door for unconscious bias. Creating a formal process and using a consistent set of behavioral and situational interview questions that help identify a predetermined set of soft skills better allow you to identify exactly what your organization needs to be successful.

Eighty percent of the Global Talent Trends respondents said soft skills are increasingly important to their company’s success. So to build a solid hiring strategy for a future defined by change, hiring managers need more ways to truly assess a candidate’s soft skills early on. Make sure your hiring team is aligned on the key skills necessary for a team fit, has a similar assessment plan each time so you can compare results, and considers a number of tactics in the interview process.

By committing to improving soft skills assessment, you’ll start finding ways to spot the uniquely human traits that spell success, and begin to future-proof your workforce.

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Jennifer Shappley is senior director, talent acquisition, at LinkedIn.

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