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Progressive Hiring: 7 Underrated Soft Skills in Candidates to Foster Productivity

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There’s no need to discuss how critical hard skills are. These are quantifiable skills and credentials. Programming, accounting, translating text from another language, and knowing how to operate a forklift are all hard skills. Soft skills are less tangible but just as meaningful. Consider this quote from Julie Lindgren, VP of Sales & Marketing at Whitman Associates:

“Two invaluable traits that you should look for while hiring are eagerness and flexibility. There are lots of practical skills that can be developed through training, but the desire to learn, grow, and pitch in on multiple projects or facets of the business is generally more valuable.” 

Soft skills can be even more important than challenging or technical abilities. So, what are the soft skills you should be seeking? Let’s look at seven essential but sometimes overlooked soft skills businesses and staffing agencies need to consider when interviewing candidates.

  • Adaptability:

As Julie Lingren mentions above, flexibility is an essential soft skill. Adaptability is closely related. Both indicate the ability to pivot as conditions change. Our world moves faster than ever. New technology, procedures, and systems are constantly replacing older ones. Employees need to be flexible and avoid getting stuck in ruts.

  • Communication

All jobs require effective communication. The type of communication differs from one job or position to the next. 

  • Persuasive communication. Sales and marketing pros must be persuasive on the phone or in writing ad copy. 
  • Talking with team members, co-workers, and people in other departments. 
  • Written communication, such as emails. This is increasingly important, especially as many workers work remotely or on hybrid schedules
  • Being a good listener.  Speaking or writing is only half of the equation. Communication also means listening. Active listening is a valuable skill that means absorbing and understanding what others say.
  • Problem-Solving

Problems are unavoidable in any workplace. Solving problems often means dealing with the unexpected. There are many problems, from a demanding customer to a software glitch—a good problem solver knows where to look for an answer if it’s not immediately apparent. The solution might be online or in the mind of an intelligent co-worker. 

  • Initiative

You always want employees who can think for themselves and show initiative. This demands both self-confidence and common sense. Employees must understand when to seek guidance and when to follow their instincts. 

  • Creativity

Creativity is helpful in any field. It’s not confined to the arts. Finding original approaches and looking at situations from a different point of view is valuable anywhere. Being creative means being open to looking for solutions in unexpected places. 

  • Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is another word for eagerness, which Julie Lindgren mentions above. This trait can also be called passion. Employees can be skilled at their jobs but still need this essential quality. Not everyone shows enthusiasm in the same way. An employee doesn’t have to be an extrovert bubbling with good cheer. They do need to be focused and dedicated. You want your team’s people to care about what they’re doing.

  • Time Management

Only some people use their time with the same efficiency. The ability to manage time is valuable in any profession. Time management includes several skills. 

  • Prioritizing. Knowing what tasks to do in what order is fundamental to efficiency. 
  • Avoiding distractions. Everyone has lots of distractions today, from social media to text messages.
  • Goal setting. Depending on the job, employees may need to set daily, weekly, or seasonal goals.
  • Delegating. It can be more efficient to delegate specific tasks. 
  • Automation. Using the right automated tools can boost efficiency. 

Soft Skills Overlap

I’ve covered seven of the most crucial soft skills, but there are certainly others. To mention a few more: conflict resolution, empathy, decision-making ability, and cultural awareness. Many soft skills overlap. Problem-solving and creativity, for instance, go hand in hand. Someone needs initiative and enthusiasm to exhibit their other hard and soft skills. It’s convenient to list soft skills separately, but they often merge.  

Evaluating Soft Skills

It’s pretty straightforward to identify hard skills. A resume reveals someone’s technical background. If someone says they know how to code, you can have them take a test. Verifying that a person is creative or a great problem solver is not easy. Here are some guidelines that can help.

  • Ask for examples. During the interview, ask the applicant for instances where they exhibited soft skills such as problem-solving or creative thinking. 
  • Have them elaborate on the soft skills they list on their resumes. If someone has strong communication skills, ask them to give an example. 
  • Give them problems to solve. For example, describe a conversation or meeting and ask them how they would have responded differently to a question. Provide an email or project proposal and ask them to critique it regarding soft skills.
  • Talk to references.  Ask for honest feedback on the candidate’s soft skills.

Don’t Underestimate Soft Skills

People are multifaceted individuals. Soft skills can be complicated. An introverted person not inclined to speak up at meetings may be a terrific writer. Someone may be more motivated in certain situations than others. 

Both hard and soft skills matter. When evaluating candidates, you must devise a formula for deciding what is most important. Don’t undervalue soft skills. Someone motivated and eager to learn can always pick up a complex skill. Technical proficiency, on the other hand, can’t make up for a lack of enthusiasm or an inability to communicate. 


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