Today’s job interviewer has a tough task: assessing prospective new hires not just for technical abilities, but for their soft skills — those personality traits that allow you to interact effectively with other people. It’s the value your EQ, or your emotional qualities, adds to your IQ to present you as a wholesome hire to a professional environment. After all, what good is intelligence if you don’t have the soft skills to communicate them effectively?
Soft skills have claimed top spot in LinkedIn’s recent Global Recruiting Trends report shows that recruiters and hiring managers rank the use of soft skills assessments among the top hiring trends in 2017.
It makes sense: 58% of hiring managers agree that the lack of soft skills among candidates is limiting their company’s productivity. The problem, however, is that most hiring managers also agree that screening for soft skills is challenging. In looking for soft skills in talent, recruiters need to have the soft skills themselves to ask the right questions.
How many times have you been asked inane questions in an interview that reveal little of your abilities, and mostly satisfy the interviewer’s curiosity about whether they’ll like you personally? Questions like, ”
What would you say is your spirit animal?”; “What’s your greatest weakness?” and “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” are stupid and indicative that the interviewee is in front of an ancient recruitment script.
Arguably the most powerful soft skill is the ability of the recruiter to ask the right questions to get the information they need, in an interview and otherwise.
LinkedIn found that the top six attributes recruiters and hiring managers are looking for when assessing soft skills are: adaptability, culture fit, collaboration, leadership, growth potential, and prioritization.
So what questions should you be asking, and what responses should you be looking out for during an interview? Let’s go through a few examples of how to find candidates who meet more than just the criteria listed in the job description.
Our world is rapidly evolving, making it essential to employ folks who can roll with the rigors of a changing economy and new business needs. It’s no wonder that 69% of hiring managers agree that adaptability is the most important soft skill. It’s critical at LinkedIn, too.
To understand a candidate’s ability to adapt, ask about a time they were asked to do something they had never done before, and probe on how they reacted and what they learned.
You’re looking for specific examples in their response, like how they approached this new challenge and the steps they took to educate themselves, or how they reevaluated the path forward when encountering a roadblock . Managing big changes and being able to flex to meet new challenges or changing priorities is a clear sign of adaptability.
If you aren’t getting enough details, ask about the last time they learned a new system or technology, or when they had to adjust to a colleague’s work style.
Eighty-nine percent of hiring failures happen because the hirees weren’t good cultural fits. On the flip side, research shows that those who are well-suited to a company have higher job satisfaction, performance and longevity.
In assessing for culture fit, be careful not to apply a “like me” bias. Focus instead on aligned values and how the candidate can add to your culture. That said, how do you determine culture fit in an interview? Every organization is different, so the key here is to assess how much your company’s values overlap with the candidate’s.
You can ask, “What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?” Their answer should give you a sense of what motivates them to come to work every day. If their description overlaps enough with your company culture and values, that’s a good sign they’ll feel at home and will provide value to the team.
The ability to work well with others supports productivity and a happy work environment. A whopping 97% of employees and executives think lack of team alignment directly impacts the outcome of a task or project.
While you can determine this skill to some degree when asking questions related to adaptability and culture fit, collaboration has more to do with emotional intelligence and teamwork. Ask for an example of when the candidate had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with, and how they handled the interaction.
Someone who has had success in a matrixed environment will probably have developed the ability to work well with many different types of people and in different situations. To get a more complete picture, probe further for examples of how they worked through a miscommunication, a time when someone responded poorly to them, and projects that have gone well and why.
Hiring candidates who motivate, inspire, and positively influence others has a direct effect on the bottom line. Research shows that organizations with strong leaders are 13 times more likely to outperform their competition.
Every soft skill makes an impact, but finding strong leaders who can right the ship when the going gets tough and push everyone to perform at their best is paramount to success. To discover leadership abilities, ask the candidate to tell you about the last time something significant didn’t go according to plan, what role they played in guiding the team, and what the outcome was.
You’re looking for responses that show how the candidate navigates roadblocks and how they rally others to get positive results. Look for answers that shed light on leadership traits such as innovation, integrity, and creativity. The best leaders focus on what can be done, instead of what can’t.
When an employee leaves a company, it costs that organization 1.5 times the person’s salary to replace them. A new hire with growth potential comes with exponential benefits, from saving the company time and money to the ability to promote from within.
Ask the interviewee to recall a time when their manager was unavailable when a problem arose, how they handled the situation, and who helped them come to a decision. This will uncover the qualities you’re looking for: ambition, problem-solving, and drive.
Going a step further, can the candidate highlight a time they took on a new challenge, worked on cross-functional teams or learned a new skill? You’re looking for someone who can bring their career trajectory to life for you, and show how they’ve added value to their previous employers over time.
With a more global and connected workplace, multitasking is more important than ever. Candidates who can make quick decisions about how to best order and organize tasks come at a premium.
When looking to uncover someone’s ability to organize, streamline, and schedule projects, ask about a time when the candidate had to juggle several tasks at the same time, how they managed their time, and the results they achieved. Also, ask how they determine what’s most urgent for the day.
Then, once you get a handle on their approach to process, look into their “I” vs. “we” approach. Are they a team player who will see projects through to completion? You’ll hear a lot of “we” in this case. Do they talk a lot about their own accomplishments? Watch out for more emphasis on “I” here. Also, look out for those who can delegate effectively as this shows their ability to prioritize their own time.
To push ahead of your competition, it’s not just knowing what to do, but what to do next. Asking the questions above will help you pinpoint the candidates with the soft skills your company needs to succeed in 2017.
Jennifer Shappley is senior director of talent acquisition at LinkedIn and this story was originally published by Business Insider.