3 soft skills to look for while hiring (and how to test for them)

3 soft skills to look for while hiring (and how to test for them)

Tuesday January 17, 2017,

4 min Read

For any job, there are hard-technical or academic skills one needs to possess to get the job done. But there is another set of skills, which stay pretty much the same irrespective of the job profile, which makes or breaks an interview, called soft skills. According to a survey by LinkedIn, hiring managers look beyond the technical know-how a candidate possesses for qualities like good communication and strong organisational skills. All over the world, this is true, as a survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal recently found. Of the 900 executives polled, 92 percent of them said that they valued soft skills as much or more than technical skills.

Image : shutterstock

Image : shutterstock

Hard skills can be picked up on the job or through specialised training, but soft skills cannot be imparted in this way as they are highly qualitative and vary from person to person. As hiring managers, it is important to make right choices while picking a person to join your team. According to a study by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), a bad hiring decision could cost up to five times that person’s annual salary to the company, not including replacement costs. So, to make sure you hire someone who will gel well with your team, here are some soft skills you must look out for while hiring:

Good communication skills

We agree that a coder or an accountant need not be a good debater or orator. But they should be able to convey their thoughts and ideas to their team, and also be able to listen and grasp those of others. According to a survey conducted among nearly 600 managers by the Graduate Management Admission Council, communication skills top the list of go-to skills that every employer looks for. Among these skills, employers ranked oral and listening skills first, followed by written communication.

This is also, perhaps, the easiest soft skill to spot in potential hires. The starting point is their cover letters and resumes. A well-written, error-free, and concise cover letter and resume, coupled with good verbal and listening skills at the face-to-face interview are good enough parameters to weigh in on this skill.


Many hiring managers get stuck in the rut of favouring those with experience than the more proactive, slightly inexperienced young blood. Years of experience need not necessarily translate into the ability to take initiative and get things done. Would your candidate go ahead and take up a task or correct a mistake without being instructed or asked by someone else?

To find out whether they are proactive, ask them about instances when they have taken the initiative to start something new or to get something done. Take a look at how they used the resources of time at hand and whether they learned something from the experience. Having a self-starter on your team will only bode you well in difficult times.

Willingness to learn

Whatever be the post you are hiring for, your potential employee must exhibit curiosity and a willingness to learn new things. Only such employees look for answers, initiate innovation, and update their own skillsets regularly. The ability to learn from their mistakes, too, is something that comes with this skill. Candidates who are open to and enjoy the process of learning new things showcase the ability to think out of the box and stay confident about their hard skill set.

The best way to find out whether a candidate has this skill is by asking them if they have any questions for you. The really curious ones would have already done their research and would still have something to ask you. Also, look out for their capabilities outside of their work qualifications. Picking up skills that are outside their professional realm of expertise expresses great curiosity and drive.

Remember that soft skills are what set great employees from good ones apart. So paying attention to such important qualities in a potential hire will make them an asset to your team in real life and not just on paper. Also, take care to hire those who have different perspectives and come from diverse backgrounds, as you do not want to have a team that is capable of thinking only in a single direction.

So what are the soft skills you look for in potential hires? Let us know in the comments section below.

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