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Identifying Intangibles: Pinpointing Job Candidates’ Soft Skills

Identifying Intangibles: Pinpointing Candidates’ Soft Skills

By Braulio Giron, Jr. on May 6, 2019

Figuring out which of your applicants are qualified both on paper and in person? Pinpointing the immeasurable qualities critical to job performance and cultural fit makes all the difference

It continues to be well documented how experience in data analysis, the ability to code in languages such as C++, or knowing how to speak another country’s dialect, among other talents, are great skills to come across during hiring and recruitment. But, what about listening well, leading meetings and managing time, and dealing with different personalities and opinions?

While not the easiest to identify or measure, these soft skills very much influence how well employees take to each other and to the company culture, ultimately playing a major hand in how effectively they are able to make use of their technical or hard skills to contribute to business’ bottomline and overall growth.

Why exactly do soft skills matter?

There is no question that hard skills are an ideal starting point when evaluating talent. When hiring an I.T. Manager for example, you’d likely need one who has an extensive understanding of I.T. principles, and has been trained and/or is certified in one or more coding languages. But, is that enough to make them perfect for the position?

Expectedly, most employers would say no. For one thing, I.T. Managers (or any manager for that matter), must also be leaders who can communicate well and think critically. Simply put, soft skills matter even in ‘hard’ disciplines like I.T. Even developers, in a non-managerial roles, don’t just write code; they also need to innovate, collaborate, meet deadlines and understand end users’ perspectives, skills not necessarily taught in I.T. programs.

Indeed, soft skills are what drive career advancement and make people successful. However, finding knowledgeable candidates is one thing, but making sure they are able to lead or collaborate effectively, solve complex problems, or go the extra mile is another.

Interviewing to identify and test soft skills

It can be challenging to find candidates that possess all of the soft skills you are looking for, and assessing them can be even trickier. Gauging candidates via interviews is the tried and tested way to uncover soft skills, but it must be kept in mind that some  interviewers judge soft skills subjectively, resulting in hiring people who are similar to them.

You can avoid this via structured interviews, with questions that are applicable to all job candidates for a level playing field. Asking behavioral and situational questions is a good approach, as these are open-ended, allowing candidates to talk about their experiences in their own way. This also encourages follow up questions, where you can clarify points and better understand candidates’ responses.

Typically beginning with “Tell me about a time when…”, behavioral questions ask candidates to draw on their past experiences, with their answers often having to align with the Situation – Task – Action – Result, or STAR, approach. On the other hand, situational questions are hypothetical, which you can base on what candidates would be likely to face if you hired them, or even general questions like “What would you do if last minute changes are needed on a project due on Monday, but its already Friday?”

Questions to ask

Similar to the roles in your organization, needed soft skills vary across jobs. An accountant, for example, needs to be detail oriented, but not necessarily a leader. On the other hand, some soft skills are necessary across various jobs, but for different reasons. Interpersonal skills, for example, are required from both salespeople and for accountants, with the former needing it for persuasion and building rapport, and the latter for presenting data and explaining related details.

No matter the context, there are a number of soft skills that are commonly sought after, and the following are examples of questions which you can ask relating to some of them:

  • “Tell us about a time you had to work with a team member/s who often opposed your ideas or whose ideas you didn’t always agree with.”

  • “How would you react if your manager encouraged competition instead of collaboration amongst the team?”

  • “Has there been a time when a project’s priorities suddenly changed? How did you adapt?”

  • “Has a team member ever undermined your position? How did you handle the situation?”

  • "Could you tell us about a time your team was under a tight situation (like a nearing deadline), and what you did to get them through the situation?"

Critical thinking
  • "Talk about a time you had to make a decision having incomplete information."

  • “How would you explain (industry term) to someone not familiar with this business?”

Although a little cumbersome, you can ask these questions to your candidates as early as they make their application. On Kalibrr, you have the option to include Custom Questions with each of your job posts, those of which candidates have to fully answer before their applications are successfully submitted.

While more appropriate for general questions, this feature on the Kalibrr platform allows you to prepare follow-up questions for when you interview candidates in person. While answering as they apply may seem like added work on the applicants’ end, having them do this also allows you measure their other soft skills and characteristics like comprehension and eagerness towards the job.

Posting on Kalibrr also allows you to include assessments with your jobs, which allows you to conveniently get a measure of candidates’ hard skills. This allows you to both effectively narrow down your candidates to those who are qualified from a technical standpoint, while at the same time lending you more time to focus on discovering and assessing their soft skills.

For more information on how to use the Kalibrr platform, or to request for a demo, or to begin hiring better, sign up for Kalibrr today.

Kalibrr is a technology company that aims to transform how candidates find jobs and how companies hire talent. Placing the candidate experience at the center of everything it does, the company continues to attract the best talent from all over, with more than 2 million professionals and counting. Kalibrr ultimately connects these talents to companies in search of their next generation of leaders.

The only end-to-end recruitment solutions provider in Southeast Asia, Kalibrr is headquartered in Makati, Philippines, with offices in San Francisco, California and Jakarta, Indonesia. Established in 2012, it has served over 18,000 clients, and is backed by some of the world’s most powerful start-up incubators and venture capitalists. These include Y Combinator, Omidyar Network, Patamar Capital, Wavemaker Partners, and Kickstart Ventures.

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