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Chameleons at work: How to identify soft skills and workers who can adapt

Chameleons at work: How to identify soft skills and workers who can adapt

Soft skills are more important to employers than ever, which is a surprise to many millennials and others who have banked on their tech-heavy resumes to land the best jobs. Companies want soft skills, but they’ve discovered that it’s not so easy to assess a candidate’s soft skills from a resume.

Most employers know what soft skills are, but they have trouble recognizing them in the hiring process. For the most part, they hope interviews will give them some indication as to whether a new hire will work out.

Here are some tips about how to identify soft skills that matter most to your company.

Six soft skills to look for in hiring

In general, employees use soft skills to interact with their environment and the people around them. Six skills, in particular, stand out:

  • Adaptability
  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Critical observation
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork

It’s easy enough to write skills like these down on a list, but it’s an entirely different task to identify them in job applications. Start by putting the soft skills you seek in your job descriptions.

Ideally, your candidates will read the job description and know what soft skills are expected of them. Likewise, when it comes time for job interviews, you should know what to ask. There are a hundred possible questions, but you need to focus on behavioral interview questions to bring out those soft skills.

Behavioral interview questions reveal soft skills

In a behavioral interview, the employer wants to know how the candidate will perform in different circumstances. Often, it’s more about adaptability, communication, and problem-solving than about degrees or job titles.

Bruce Tulgan, author of Bridging the Soft Skills Gap: How to Teach the Missing Basics to Today’s Young Talent, suggests that employers learn how to identify soft skills by asking job seekers problem-solving questions. For example:

  • Tell us a story about a time you solved a problem at work.
  • Tell us a story about a conflict you had with another employee at work.
  • Can you tell us about a time when you disagreed with your manager’s directions or priorities? How did you respond?
  • Tell us a time when you made a mistake or were asked to go back and make corrections. How did you handle it?

The key to learning how to identify soft skills with behavioral questions is to avoid leading questions that may elicit canned or less-than-genuine responses. In general, you want to ask questions that prompt self-reflection and candid responses.

Of course, beyond a candidate’s past experiences, your interview itself is a good mechanism to investigate their soft skills. While it’s important to keep in mind that everyone brings some level of anxiety to the formal interview process, a candidate with good soft skills will nonetheless exhibit certain behaviors during your interview. Keep an eye out for:

Eye contact. Does the candidate have a hard time looking you in the eye or, conversely, is the candidate intensely staring you down like boxers in a pre-match press conference? Eye contact should be casual, so it’s okay to have short breaks in contact every now and then, so long as they reconnect with you, especially when you’re talking. That’s a good sign of active listening.

Organization. One of the most important skills in handling any task is organization. As your candidates to explain how they would perform a particular assignment, then watch for how they would execute the assignment step-by-step.

Interruptions. Interrupting a person is often a sign of poor communication skills. Of course, if a candidate keeps talking and talking, you may have to interrupt. Also not a good sign.

Evasion. When people don’t answer direct questions, it usually means they don’t have a good answer or they can’t focus. Either way, they’re evading the question.

More questions about how to identify soft skills in your applicants? Monster has answers

Good questions can help you identify soft skills in prospective employees, but you first need a strong recruitment strategy to bring them in the door. With expert hiring pointers and the latest analysis of hiring trends, Monster Hiring Solutions can help you find workers with all the skills your company needs.