These 5 Soft Skills in the Workplace Make for Better Hires

When hiring managers are presented with two equally qualified candidates, the one who has demonstrated strong soft skills in the workplace will win. LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Survey confirms this by sharing that a whopping “92% of talent professionals reported that soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than hard skills.”

That’s because team dynamics are central to a company's culture and success. The challenge is that finding the right chemistry within teams is tough to do. Unfortunately for hiring managers, soft skills aren't easily trainable but rather, developed through practical experience. For this reason it can be a challenge to evaluate soft skills in the hiring process.

To help understand this impact better, let's review soft skills in the workplace: what they are, why they're important, the most important types of skills, and how to assess for them in interviews.

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are intangible qualities that are sometimes thought of as personality traits. These skills can't be measured or tested in a standardized way. 

In the past, it used to be that soft skills were considered less important than hard skills like science or math. Many hiring managers would hire first for technical know-how. If the candidate was nice, it was a bonus, but not essential.

Today, soft skills in the workplace are revered as the most important. The LinkedIn Global Talent Survey reports that 80% of talent professionals confirm that soft skills are more and more crucial to company success. Human resources teams want job candidates who can show empathy and build connections with their team members.

Why Are Soft Skills in Demand?

Wonderlic conducted a study that revealed 93% of hiring managers consider soft skills as “essential” or “very important” factors in their hiring decisions.

The team's soft skills will affect the company's reputation regardless of their role. When human resources teams uncover candidates with impressive communication or leadership skills it makes the hiring manager's much job easier — especially when it comes to onboarding.

The five most notable skills boil down to:

  1. Communication skills
  2. Confident leadership
  3. Problem-solving ability 
  4. Emotional intelligence 
  5. People skills

Higher levels of maturity and self-awareness often come through experience. When soft skills in the workplace enhance communication, it boosts team peace and productivity. This can ultimately translate to more job satisfaction and staying power within the team. 

Hire for These Soft Skills in the Workplace

I've categorized the most important soft skills into five main categories. 

There are many soft skills in the workplace that contribute to healthy teams but these are my top picks:

1. Effective Communication Skills

Great communication skills means more than polite manners. 

Due to an increasingly technology-based remote work environment, communication means more than ever before. A solid candidate must have written skills (emails, Slack, and other chat tools), verbal skills (phone), and active listening skills (Zoom and Skype calls). 

A primarily remote-based work culture can mean that you don't have the person you’re speaking with in front of you. When we rely on technology to communicate, it requires more effort to get ideas across. Team members who maintain a calm and clear intonation under pressure and confident body language (on video calls) help to demonstrate their understanding to peers and superiors. 

2. Leadership Skills

Leadership skills aren't reserved for hiring managers or managers in leadership positions. When team players conduct themselves with confidence it often leads to their career success and upward mobility. 

Notable traits of a leader:

  • Public speaking confidence
  • Inspiring other team members with a positive attitude 
  • Decision-making ability
  • Self-management and strong work ethic

3. Problem-Solving Skills

soft skills in the workplace: team discussing reports in a meeting

A natural problem solver can be tough to find but it's one of the most beneficial soft skills anyone can have. 

Types of problem-solving skills:

  • Conflict resolution: Working closely as a team means disagreements come up. Problem-solving skills help remedy this with effective conflict resolution. This is often represented by a calm approach and a mature demeanor.
  • Critical thinking: This soft skill requires objective observation to detect patterns in behavior. By understanding the patterns, the candidate can find better solutions quicker.
  • Creative thinking: Creative thinking skills are connected with innovation and brainstorming. A creative problem solver generates unique solutions that may seem a little outlandish. That's because they challenge conventional methods and thinking and often lead a team to innovation.

4. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence may be the most important category for 21st century work environments. 

Sometimes it's called EQ or emotional quotient. Invented by Salovey and Mayer in a book published in 1990, this concept didn't gain traction until the mid-‘90s. Originally, emotional intelligence was defined as, "the ability to process information about your own emotions and other people’s. It’s also the ability to use this information to guide your thoughts and behavior."

Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence in three parts:

  • The ability to identify and name one's own emotions via language and/or cues.
  • The ability to manage said emotions.
  • The ability to manage your own emotions in tandem with another's emotions.

A balance of emotional self-awareness and social competency prepares employees to connect with co-workers and manage work-related pressures. 

A TalentSmart survey found that 90% of top performers were high in emotional intelligence. Perhaps this is more than a coincidence.

5. People Skills

Most people are socialized from a young age, yet building rapport in the workplace remains intricate — particularly for new employees. The most meaningful relationships are built on trust and it can be hard to do this at work.

Beyond making friends, people skills can also include soliciting and providing constructive feedback. Often there's a desire to improve our performance but in order for feedback to be taken in stride, there has to be mutual trust. 

Another example of people skills is being able to ask for help. Reaching out to co-workers from other teams for a favor requires a gracious approach. 

Interpersonal skills are woven into almost every part of our work so it makes it challenging and unproductive when new hires don’t have them.

How To Assess Soft Skills in the Workplace 

It's difficult to tell if a job candidate will be a solid team player during the interview process. They might have leadership qualities written on their resume but you can't always know for sure.

Since job seekers come to the interview with their best foot forward, how they present isn't always indicative of normal performance. This can make it challenging to identify who's the best fit for the team. 

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to assess soft skills:

  • Ask behavioral-style interview questions. This interview style provides insights into how candidates handle real-world scenarios. 
  • Review candidate references via Searchlight before you meet with them. Through the platform, you'll see what former managers and co-workers have said about their strengths and working styles. Our customers have shared Searchlight reports are like having a copy of a past performance review on the candidate. Let this inform you on what to watch for in the interview. Based on what you already know, it can deepen the context. For some ideas on execution, here's how we do it at Searchlight.
  • Score your interviews and put soft skills in a standalone section. It doesn't have to be overly complex. The scale can be as simple as pass/fail per skill or levels 1-5 to grade candidate competencies. Whatever scale you choose, the interview should always be in a structured format to help reduce bias

Get the team excited about soft skills development by incentivizing training:

A team debrief to discuss insights can be an easy way to connect more deeply with your team.

Soft Skills in the Workplace Are Here to Stay

soft skills in the workplace: team cheering

Soft skills aren't going anywhere. Human resources teams and recruiters are always looking for ways to build on soft skills development. The majority of hiring managers won’t consider applicants who lack soft skills in the workplace for good reason. 

Finding the right chemistry among teammates can be a unique challenge, even with top soft skills. Check out how Searchlight does the heavy lifting to flesh out each candidate's strengths and coachable areas by requesting a demo

You’ll soon see for yourself how a unique approach to referencing provides hiring managers with the insights they need to make hires that support team fit. Searchlight is here to help you create a stronger, more cohesive team that will lead to better culture and productivity.

Want to hire more high performers and increase retention?

Serchlight’s Talent Intelligence has got you covered