Employers: How to measure soft skills during a job interview

Hiring managers understand that there are two equally necessary sides to every job candidate.

Hiring managers understand that there are two equally necessary sides to every job candidate. His or her technical skills and experience make up one half, while the other represents the candidate's personality and interpersonal abilities.

During the interview process, it is easier to establish which candidates are more suited to the job based on their past work experience and education than it is to determine which personality types will fit well within your organization. Soft skills, such as a problem solving and critical thinking, are hard to appraise over the phone or in a 30-minute face-to-face interview.

"When interviewing, I often first ask candidates to tell me about themselves," says Rebecca Wright, Regional Director for Beacon Hill's Associates Division. "It's open-ended and a relatively easy question that tends to put the person at ease. It gives me a chance to evaluate how they story-tell and communicate information. Do they go chronologically? Are they concise? Do they make eye contact? What's their tone and enthusiasm level? These are great questions to ask yourself while evaluating a potential hire's soft skills and can help establish common ground, making it easier to establish chemistry during the interview."

Furthermore, these tips will help you make more informed hiring decisions that take into account both sides of every candidate.

Problem solving

Individual members of your staff will inevitably rely on one another to solve complex problems quickly. That said, each team member must possess the ability to accurately define a problem in terms of its root causes and not only the logistical constraints it creates. If an employee is unable to do so, the time and resources it takes to solve a problem will increase.

To assess this skill: Ask candidates for examples of complex problems they faced in previous jobs. Note how they respond: Do they give step-by-step examples? Similarly, you can ask about times they were unable to solve problems alone and required the help of other team members.

Ask for examples of previous projects to learn more about a candidate's critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking

Jobs that require significant mental effort often cannot be accomplished by simply following an established workflow. As an employer, you must rely on your team members to take the reins and discover unique solutions to problems as they occur. Constant intervention by upper management will slow down the work process and needlessly expend resources.

To assess this skill: Can the candidate identify the root cause of an issue, or do they spend too much time focusing on the symptoms? Ask questions about how candidates set about creating a problem-solving plan. Do they dive right in, or do they take a step back to evaluate the situation accordingly?

Attention to detail

This soft skill is really about going the extra mile. Optimal candidates will go above and beyond the call of duty because they're truly invested in the job. A passionate employee will likely pay closer attention to every detail of a project compared to someone who is in it for the paycheck.

To assess this skill: During the interview, carefully consider how candidates engage with you. Do they listen to questions before answering? Do they take notes? Listen to how they talk about the job: Do they seem excited about the work? Are they already talking about ways to improve the company and become valuable team players?


"One of the ways I like to assess a candidate's interpersonal and soft skills is to ask questions related to their experience working in various environments and work cultures," says Shakira Irizarry, Recruiting Manager for Beacon Hill's Pharma Division in Wakefield, MA. "Almost all jobs require adaptability, but you can learn a lot about someone when you ask them what they liked or disliked about various work environments. Discussing which they prefer can help you identify the type of environment they can best flourish in. You can assess this by asking the candidate to describe the work culture they have experience working in and if they enjoyed working in that environment. Asking for specifics on what they enjoyed, and what changes they would make, helps reveal their ideal work situation, but also how they performed in less-than-ideal circumstances."

To assess this skill: Prepare a few questions that will determine how well the candidate can work under pressure. Similarly, consider asking about a time when candidates had to adapt their work to a changing situation or what they enjoy learning about in their free time. A lack of interest in continued learning is a clear red flag.

For professional help finding the best candidates for your open positions, contact the expert recruiters at Beacon Hill Staffing Group today.

This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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