How Measuring Soft Skills Leads To Brilliant Conversations Between Employers And Job Seekers
We hear the term “soft skills” used often. In an evolving workplace, these hard-to-quantify skills are growing in importance. Employers need to get serious about finding and gauging job candidates with soft skills. And for job seekers, the time has come to understand, quantify and market these skills.
Candidate Evaluation Beyond Traditional Hard Stats
Employers are increasingly willing to consider candidates who are deficient in specific skills or qualifications on paper. Robert Half found that a full 84% of companies identify as being either “very open” or “somewhat open” to hiring and training someone with a skills gap. Companies are now willing to invest in potential. They are trading checked boxes in favor of what they believe they’ll get down the road. But how can recruiters and hiring managers gain visibility into those intangibles?
First, consider what we want when we use that term “soft skills.” The list of priorities varies from industry to industry, and from one role to the next. We’ve grown more sophisticated in how we talk about and value these skills, but the focus is still too narrow. The fact is that our top-of-mind soft skills don’t apply uniformly across roles, and we fail to consider how needs may shift for different industries. While creativity might work well for an entrepreneurial problem solver, safety-mindedness and endurance may be the essentials for an electrician’s apprentice.
High Turnover Industries Especially Need to Measure Soft Skills
The workforce is full of hourly workers (over 80 million), those in high-turnover industries, and personnel whose positions don’t require post-secondary education. If anything, these positions are more dependent upon soft skills assessment than are other categories of jobs. Yet the ways we evaluate these candidates often lack systematic insight into the core characteristics that the job will require.
Even in high-volume hiring, job applications start with diplomas and demographics, which for many are non-distinguishing factors, and then go on to work experience. Interviews can provide some clarity, but they function with limited time and are structured with no basis in behavioral science. They also produce no quantifiable insights to carry over to the next candidate or hiring season. That’s a problem that leads to “candidate churn,” or over-recruiting, losing candidates because they drop out or aren’t the best fits for what’s needed at the time, and then starting again.
A Candidate Experience Rooted In Soft Skills Conversations
Our goal should be two-pronged: one, build data around a systematic, valid approach to soft skills assessment. Two, use those insights to become strategic in recruiting, hiring and retaining talent… all while creating reciprocity with job seekers. Many industries have been using data for years to customize marketing campaigns — this is the “right message, right place, right time” personalization that has become more the norm. More recently, this data-driven filtering has been applied to the HR and talent acquisition space. Again, this is usually done from a marketing perspective. Similar to a display ad for a hiking shoe targeted to someone based on an internet search for related camping gear, you have a targeted ad for a specific job listing shown to someone with related searches or interests.
But this should be taken further as part of the digital transformation of people analytics. Capture not just a person’s job search activity, but a measure of their soft skills. In other words, get ahead of the process by knowing which soft skills you want, measure them among even casual job seekers, and then ensure that the highest priority prospects are the ones who submit applications. Then, imagine giving this soft skill data back to job seekers. This transparency will force brilliant conversations between employers and seekers about soft skill requirements for specific roles. Building efficiency into the system like this requires some smart technology: nimble, well-integrated, and user-friendly methods of assessing soft skills.
The Job Seeker Toolkit of the Future
Coming with a resume and references are fine, but they’re no longer enough. Job seekers too benefit from measuring and knowing their own soft skills. They can use their results to speak not only to their potential for workplace contributions but to their fit for sought-after roles. Marketing these skills helps candidates start the evaluation process one step ahead and have a more intelligent conversation with a recruiter or hiring manager about what soft skills are most likely to help an applicant succeed in the role.
This needn’t only be a goal for experienced professionals moving among white-collar positions. Entry-level workers who incorporate personality awareness or other soft skills metrics into an early discussion with a hiring manager, particularly when those metrics come from validated, science-backed measures, show a commitment to organizational dynamics. And these touchpoints — I’m high in conscientiousness so I insist on adherence to procedures or I’m high in agreeableness so I get along with many types of people — are powerful catalysts for bringing depth to a candidate’s evaluation. That’s a recipe for starting an employment relationship on the right foot.
Soft Skills As the Primary Matchmaker
There’s no one single formula for evaluating human potential. But by looking beyond on-paper assets to begin to illuminate the ways in which a person will truly thrive — or clash — with the real day-to-day realities of a workplace, employers and job seekers can begin to close the gap and have smarter conversations about what matters in roles. These conversations are fundamental precursors to successful relationship building between job seekers and employers. Then, using innovative tech alongside behavioral science to become matchmakers of sorts will result in better, more fulfilling and longer-term workplace tenures.