When Hiring, Evaluate Soft Skills for Hard Gains

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Hiring, much like poker, has a human element that introduces risk no matter how good your prospects look on paper. If you’re looking to fill an open position on your staff, don’t forget to evaluate the soft skills that show you not just what your candidates can do, but also who they are.

In an article on CIOInsight, Dennis McCafferty lists 13 soft skills to look for in job candidates. Candidates with these qualities bring much more to their employers than the mere ability to do a job. Here’s a rundown of some of those qualities and how to see whether your candidates have them.


When problems arise, do your candidates possess the initiative to correct them on their own, or do they wait until someone else notices and asks them to do it? Ask your candidates whether they ever independently identified a problem in the workplace and what steps they took to correct it.


In today’s business environment, a strong employee must wear many hats, sometimes taking one off and donning another at a moment’s notice. Review your candidates’ experience to see whether they’ve proven their versatility and agility.


No one wants an employee who makes empty promises. Where possible, evaluate follow-through by assigning skill tests or other tasks for candidates to complete by your deadline. Be fair, but make that deadline tight.

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Good decision-making requires the ability to think fairly and critically, and critical thinking demands self-awareness, particularly of one’s involuntary biases. Ask candidates to describe and explain a decision they made that ran counter to a personal bias.

Company awareness

A thorough understanding of what your company does and what it stands for can mean a couple of different things, both good: a prior interest in your company and a genuine desire to work there, or initiative and solid research skills.

Ability to apply their experiences

Candidates able to learn from their past experiences and apply that learning to new situations show intelligence and flexibility. Give your candidates a hypothetical problem to solve that lies outside of their past experiences. Can they take what they know and use that knowledge on something new?


Candidates who don’t bother to dress and groom appropriately for a job interview are much less likely to make the effort for their colleagues…or your customers and clients.

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Finally, how your candidates’ current and former colleagues speak of them can say volumes. Make calling for references a priority, and don’t forget to look for recommendations (or a lack thereof) on LinkedIn profiles, too.

Hiring is risky, and making the extra effort to look past a resume to the person behind it can seem daunting. In many cases, however, soft skills are as important as hard experience. Take the time to get to know your candidates. Do some diligence to find out whether others see them the way they’ve presented themselves to you. You’ll benefit in the long run with a new hire who’s good not just on paper, but in real life.

Jude Chao is executive editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Follow Jude on Twitter.

Adapted from 13 Ways to Determine a Candidate’s Soft Skills by Dennis McCafferty at CIO Insight. Follow CIO Insight on Twitter.