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Hiring for Soft Skills vs Technical Skills

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The need for technical skills is often seen as paramount when hiring new employees. Over the years however, we have seen the importance of soft skills become more recognised and in our experience, there has been an increased focus on soft skills in technical roles.

Employers know that the value of soft skills such as communication, adaptability and problem-solving can be just as important as technical skills. Hiring for soft skills however, comes with its own set of challenges. While technical skills can be objectively assessed, evaluating and selecting candidates based on their soft skills poses unique challenges.


Subjectivity and Evaluation Bias

Soft skills can be subjective and open to interpretation. Unlike technical skills that can be measured through certifications or qualifications, assessing soft skills relies heavily on subjective observations and personal judgments. Hiring managers may be susceptible to evaluation bias, which can influence their perception of a candidate’s soft skills. Mitigating this challenge requires training interviewers to use standardised evaluation criteria and promoting diversity in the interview panel to minimise individual biases.


Lack of Standardised Assessment Methods

Unlike technical skills that often have standardised assessment methods and objective benchmarks, soft skills lack such uniformity. Each organisation may have its own interpretation and expectations regarding soft skills. This lack of standardisation makes it difficult to compare candidates consistently across different roles and industries. Developing structured behavioural-based interview questions and utilising validated assessment tools can help create a more standardised approach to evaluate soft skills. Methods for assessing these softer skills include, situational based interviewing, certain psychometric tests, and probing questions designed.


Limited Visibility During the Recruitment Process

Technical skills are often tangible and visible, allowing candidates to provide concrete evidence of their capabilities through portfolios or technical tests. In contrast, soft skills are typically demonstrated through behaviours and interactions, which may not be fully observable during the recruitment process. To gain a deeper understanding of a candidate’s soft skills, hiring managers can employ situational and scenario-based questions, conduct team-based assessments, or leverage technology-enabled simulations to simulate real-world situations and gauge soft skill proficiency.


Alignment with Organisational Culture

Soft skills play a crucial role in ensuring cultural fit within an organisation. Hiring candidates with strong technical skills but lacking the necessary soft skills can disrupt team dynamics and hinder collaboration. Assessing the alignment of a candidate’s soft skills with the organisational culture requires a comprehensive understanding of the desired cultural attributes. Incorporating cultural fit assessments, behavioural-based interviewing techniques, and involving current team members in the selection process can help gauge the compatibility of a candidate’s soft skills with the organisation’s values and working environment.


Complexity in Balancing Skills

Hiring for technical skills alone may result in overlooking the importance of soft skills, leading to a workforce that lacks effective communication, teamwork, and adaptability. Striking the right balance between technical and soft skills is crucial for building a well-rounded team. Hiring managers face the challenge of identifying candidates who possess both the technical expertise and the necessary soft skills. Utilising a combination of competency-based assessments, role-specific simulations, and thorough reference checks can aid in assessing candidates holistically.


Development and Growth Potential

Technical skills can often be developed and enhanced through training programs or certifications. In contrast, soft skills are typically cultivated over time and through various life experiences. Hiring for soft skills involves assessing a candidate’s potential for growth and adaptability in addition to their existing skill set. Effective techniques such as behavioural interviewing, assessing learning agility, and providing opportunities for candidates to showcase their soft skills through case studies or practical exercises can help identify individuals with high potential for soft skills development.

Hiring for soft skills presents unique challenges that go beyond assessing technical proficiency. When technology is becoming more collaborative, customer-focused, creative, and diverse – including soft skills in the recruitment process is key. By implementing standardised evaluation methods, focusing on cultural fit, balancing technical and soft skills and identifying growth potential, hiring managers can build teams that possess the right combination of technical expertise and essential soft skills.