Some people are easy to work with. They are ready to compromise, discuss things calmly, make great decisions, and work consistently toward a greater team goal. Wouldn’t it be great if every workplace was full of people like this? Well, it seems that the technology industry at large is starting to realize how important these skills are. 

A study of 500 business leaders has revealed that finding candidates with exceptional interpersonal skills is now the biggest challenge recruiters face.

Why Soft Skills Are So Important

Some hiring managers are guilty of placing more importance on hard skills, ignoring a lack of interpersonal skills for a candidate with the best “on paper” experience. 

As many of us will testify to, this approach is often folly. Ignoring the personality of a new hire in favor of an impressive resume—especially in high-pressure, team-based industries—can cause disruption, much to the detriment of the wider group. 

Candidates who have a string of degrees and qualifications from top universities, won’t necessarily make a good addition to a team. Emotional intelligence, confident communication skills, empathy, leadership, and the ability to work harmoniously with other colleagues are invaluable qualities to identify when bringing in a new employee.

How to Find Employees With Soft Skills

Employees who ruffle feathers, or who offer little in terms of comprise and compassion, can lower morale and disrupt the progress of a workplace. That said, how can hiring managers avoid these situations by identifying soft skills in potential hires? 

You can learn much from the general demeanor of a jobseeker at an interview, and there are several behavior-based questions you can use as a window into a candidate’s interpersonal skills. 

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One method of delving into candidates’ emotional intelligence is to ask how they would proceed if they spotted a mistake in a colleague’s work. Would they tell a superior? Correct the mistake without bringing it up? Criticize the employee? Or have a discreet discussion about how to solve the problem? Questions focused on the emotional well-being of their colleagues can be telling, especially if they seem confused as to why being mindful of other people’s emotions is relevant. 

Candidates who can “work well individually and as part of a team” has become a cliché that most recruiters are sick of reading. It’s a meaningless space filler on a resume, and is frankly a lazy claim to make. For this skill, look for job seekers who can show rather than tell. In the interview, ask about a situation where the candidate has had to compromise or change the direction of project according to feedback, or worked within a team to achieve a goal, rather than focusing on individual success. 

Decision making isn’t just down to gut instinct, even if it can sometimes feel that way. The ability to make rational, informed decisions is often based on identifying and learning from past mistakes rather than guesswork. Ask potential hires about a situation in which they’ve failed, and what happened afterward. If they can explain a situation in which they’ve successfully advocated a change in process, or a change in personal approach, this is a positive sign.

How to Improve the Soft Skills of the Employees You Have

It’s a myth that soft skills cannot be taught like hard skills. Sure, some people are more likeable than others, and an agreeable attitude comes more naturally to some than others. But there are actions employers can take to help improve the interpersonal skills of the employees they already have: 

  • Decision making. Making the objectives and all possible risks behind a decision clear can help bolster employees’ abilities to make good calls. Try to explore options as a group to help indecisive colleagues grow confident in their ability to rationalize and explain the reasoning behind decisions.
  • Teamwork. Debriefs after a successful or unsuccessful project has been completed can also help bring unity to a team. Avoid negativity, focus on the positives, and champion the people who have worked well together to solve a problem.
  • Conflict resolution. Encouraging a positive atmosphere of constructive feedback can create harmonious teams. Discourage escalating a situation up to senior management unless absolutely necessary, and make open meetings of free discussion a key part of the working culture.
  • Leadership. People follow those whom they respect, and who offer respect in return. It’s difficult to properly define what a leader is, but generally, they will possess a combination of the interpersonal skills detailed above, with the desire to challenge and improve those around them. Sometimes offering praise and appreciation can propel someone with the potential to become a leader and move on to the next stage in their development.

For an infographic summarizing the data, please visit the Modis blog.