Soft skills are traits, behaviours and attributes that cover an array of abilities, from self-motivation and adaptability to communication and empathy. They are a key aspect of the workplace.
But the question that continues to circulate is, where is the best place to put them during the recruitment process? Should they be listed under essential criteria in your job advertisement or mentioned in an interview? Should you ask candidates scenario questions or go with what is written on CVs?
If these are the sorts of questions you’ve asked yourself, then keep reading to find out why soft skills are so important and the pros and cons of their placement!
In your job advertisement?
Soft skills can be implemented in the first stage of the recruitment process; the job advert. By including them in the essential criteria, you can give applicants a clear, overall picture of what will be required for the job.
Although skills such as ‘excellent communication skills’ and being a ‘great team player’ are typically needed for most jobs, communication skills, for example, may be considered of higher importance for roles such as Customer Service Advisors, where the majority of the employees’ time will be spent communicating with customers.
Therefore, soft skills can be incredibly valid to include within a job advertisement.
However, to look at the other side of the argument, soft skills are not quantifiable. This means that a candidate who has all the required experience and qualifications may be unsure if they have a ‘strong attention to detail’ and an ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ which could discourage or confuse them.
This could also lead to a less diverse pool of applicants as soft skills can have gendered connotations. For example, words such as ‘collaboration’ and ‘committed’ are female-coded, whilst ‘ambitious’ and ‘independent’ are male-coded, meaning those who identify as those genders may see themselves more in those skills. The use of such language may subsequently lead to an imbalance in applicants.
Furthermore, most candidates will spend only 14 seconds looking at a job advertisement, so if your essential criteria are in a long, vague list then candidates are unlikely to take the time to read this and will simply move on to the next advert.
In the interview?
Scenario questions are a great technique to bring out during an interview in order to further understand a candidate’s soft skills. You can find out how candidates handled tricky situations in their previous jobs, if there are any charities or causes they support or if there’s a time they’ve set themselves a goal and how it went.
In using open ended questions, you will allow them to talk about their experiences and find out if they truly have the required soft skills as well as seeing how they present themselves and communicate. It will also enable you to ask follow-up questions and develop your understanding of their character and attitude.
On the other hand, some candidates may not thrive under pressure and repeated long answer, scenario questions might not allow their best qualities to shine as they would do in other situations, such as written assessments.
Additionally, in group interviews it can be difficult to fully assess the soft skills of each candidate present as some may be more confident in putting themselves forward than others.