This post has been contributed by Ray Bixler, CEO of SkillSurvey. If you’d like to be a contributor, please contact us.

Soft Skills Are Key to Making the Best Hiring Decisions by @HRTMExec and @SkillSurvey

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart announced that it would soon begin paying its workers at least $9 per hour. Target did the same. McDonald’s soon followed suit, saying it would boost its minimum wage.

As major companies like these continue to invest more in their employees and raise wages, it will become even more important for them to make the right hiring decisions. Workers in restaurants and stores are at the front lines of customer service, representing the brand and making a big impact on whether a customer returns for another visit. Smart hiring can really boost the bottom line – spurring sales and making for happier customers. Conversely, if a new hire doesn’t work out, the company will have wasted a significant amount of money on on-boarding and training costs.

Discovering if a candidate has hard skills is easy. They’re concrete, indisputable, and easy to categorize, compare, and confirm – with things like qualifications, accreditations, diplomas, and sheer work experience. But hard skills are rarely the reason that people fail in an organization.

In fact, one of the most important – and most overlooked – things to look for when hiring for any role are the soft skills. A candidate might look great on paper and ace the interview, but turn out to be unproductive, unprofessional, and unhappy once they start work. Evaluating someone’s soft skills is a great way to avoid this problem. Here are three things you might not know about soft skills that can help immensely in hiring.

1) Soft skills really count. They’re the true predictors of success in almost any job.

You wouldn’t hire someone without the right hard skills, and neither would anyone else. So why do almost half (46%) of all new hires still fail within the first 18 months? The difference between those who make it and those who don’t is simple – it comes down to their soft skills. These are the real predictors of success in almost any job – be it customer service, CFO, event coordinator, nurse or drilling engineer – and include points such as:

  • Professionalism
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Problem solving and adaptability
  • Personal values
  • Management skills
  • Leadership skills

 That super-qualified candidate with ten years’ experience may not be so great if he or she doesn’t have these skills.

2) When it comes to soft skills, traditional hiring procedures simply don’t work.

The tools and processes available to HR managers today come up short when it comes to delivering real insight on the soft skills that are such an important predictor of success. Interviews, for example, rely by their nature on self-reporting. The job candidate is literally the only source of information available to the hiring manager during an interview. Presumably, candidates can hide or gloss over any downsides and highlight their best qualities. In fact, studies suggest that 81% of people lie in job interviews.

Personality tests – another common assessment tool – also rely on information from the candidate. What’s more, if they’re not properly administered, they may not be relevant to the job position, and at best, can only predict how an applicant might perform.  Plus, there’s plenty of help readily available for those looking to game the system by researching online for the “best” answers. Soft skills aren’t really a personality issue.

3) The key to predicting future performance is… substantive information about past performance.

All you really need to do is make sure your hiring process effectively examines each candidate’s previous performance in key competency areas. This means identifying the soft skills that are required for the job you’re looking to fill, creating job-specific criteria, and seeking detailed feedback from a number of references—managers and co-workers—that explicitly examine these soft skills. This type of process yields detailed information about a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, giving hiring managers a heads-up about what to ask for during an interview and useful intelligence for where to focus training once a candidate is hired.

Understanding these three simple points can make the difference between hiring job candidates who don’t work out – leading to high turnover costs – and hiring effective, successful workers who can help boost a company’s bottom line.


Ray Bixler, CEO of SkillSurvey

Ray Bixler, CEO of SkillSurvey

Ray Bixler is CEO of SkillSurvey, a company that harnesses the power of references to help organizations more effectively recruit, hire and retain talent. He brings over 20 years of leadership and management experience to the position. A seasoned executive, Ray sets strategic direction for SkillSurvey and manages relationships with its more than 1,400 clients. Previously, Ray served as Vice President of Caliper where he consulted with hundreds of small, mid size and Fortune 500 businesses to develop better hiring, development, performance management and succession planning strategies.

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