When you look at a candidate’s resume, it’s fairly easy to determine their professional and academic qualifications. After all, those qualifications are listed right there on the page. But what about the intangible qualities that influence how well a person can communicate and work with others? Those abilities – commonly known as “soft skills” – are also important components of finding the right person for your open position. In fact, employers are increasingly finding that soft skills play a large role in whether or not a candidate thrives on the job.
“Identifying employees with the right soft skills is crucial to building a strong talent mix and setting your team up for success, and yet leaders are struggling to find and nurture these skills,” Jonathan Lister, vice president of sales and country manager at LinkedIn Canada, wrote in an article for The Globe and Mail. “Beyond compromising morale, there’s a financial risk to neglecting the right skills when building a team: bringing in – and having to let go of – the wrong person can cost you six to nine months of that employee’s salary to replace them, according to a study done by The Society for Human Resource Management.”
Though the precise qualifications that you’re looking for in terms of education, experience and industry skills will vary depending on your field, there are a number of interpersonal qualities that are critical across most fields. When hiring, looking for these seven soft skills in candidates to help ensure you find someone who will thrive in your open role:
The ability to play nice with others isn’t just helpful on the playground. The success of new hires will depend in large part on their ability to work well with existing team members, which makes teamwork a critical skill for any position.
“That means sometimes being a leader, sometimes being a good follower, monitoring the progress, meeting deadlines and working with others across the organization to achieve a common goal,” Lynne Sarikas, the MBA Career Center Director at Northeastern University, told career and salary website Monster.com.
Even if a position is not client-facing, communication skills are important. And that includes written communication as well as spoken. In the digital age, emails, powerpoint presentations and more test a staff member’s ability to present information effectively across a variety of mediums.
There are more distractions vying for your attention than ever before, which makes the ability to concentrate on what’s important invaluable. A more traditional term for this idea might be “conscientiousness.” The art of attention also involves time management and follow-through. Even with multiple tasks and priorities on deck at any given time, staff members should be able to to focus their time and energy on important priorities.
While proper training and experience goes a long way, you can’t predict every challenge that will come your way. That’s why adaptability is so important in most any industry. Though you may have a detailed job description written up for the role that you’re looking to fill, that position could look different six or 12 months down the road. You need to identify a candidate who can adapt to any new responsibilities that may arise.
Though you probably want to hire someone who will follow instructions, you should be looking for a candidate who can also operate independently. Someone who takes initiative will not only require minimal oversight – saving you time and resources – but will also be able to identify problems and start working on solutions before being told to, improving workplace efficiency.
Even if you aren’t hiring for a management role, leadership is important in any member of your team. This ability signals that a candidate will be able to take responsibility for projects and groups when necessary, whether that means leading a client through a presentation or organizing staff members for an internal initiative.
However, hiring candidates with leadership potential isn’t just about performing well in their current position. It can also affect your future finances. According to TIME Magazine, hiring an external candidate can cost about 1.7 times more than promoting from within, based on data from the Saratoga Institute. While every hire doesn’t need to be a future executive, give some thought as to whether candidates show potential aptitude for the position above their own.
Organization isn’t just about having a neat desk or a clear to-do list. It means that the candidate is able to keep track of tasks, follow-up when necessary and continue with a project through completion. An employee who lets important things fall through the cracks can be a liability to your company’s bottom line.
8. Problem solving
While organization is important, you can’t rely on even the best planning to always create the perfect result. That’s where problem solving abilities come into play.
“In some ways, this is a skill that’s needed when planning fails,” wrote Burning Glass Technologies CEO Matthew Sigelman. “From programmers using logic and coding to fix software bugs to hotel workers trying to find a guest’s lost dry cleaning, the ability to overcome unexpected problems is one of the qualities that sets a top performer apart from the rest.”
The ability to overcome and unexpected problems that arise in the course of the job is an invaluable skill and can help set apart exemplary candidates from the rest.