Not too long ago I found myself standing in the office of a very successful owner of a mid-sized business. I was there with one of our company’s business developers. We were there to learn about his company’s hiring needs.
Our Company’s core competency is defined as helping businesses find and retain employees whose skills fit their needs. After a few nice “hellos”, my team member went right into the list of questions we ask employers. She completely missed all the wonderful family pictures on his bookshelves. She missed the “Business of the Year” plaque he received from his local Chamber of Commerce. She also missed a special picture of the gentleman volunteering at a regional Special Olympics event. So, what do you think was going through my mind between the point I noticed she missed all these things and when I was able to appropriately ask him about these pictures?
Yes, I wondered about her “soft skills.”
Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills. Many business leaders, recruiters, and trainers are very good at recognizing, evaluating, and dealing with “hard skills” – these are the technical competencies of a person. Hard skills might include: ability to use certain software, ability to use tools, ability to repair equipment, or ability to use smart phones. There are many ways you can evaluate people for and train people in these skills.
However, business leaders, recruiters, and trainers are often not very good at recognizing, evaluating, and dealing with “soft skills” – these are people-interaction competencies or capabilities. An example of someone without soft skills can be found in the character Doc Martin, which is a show on public television and originates in Britain. Doc Martin is a small town doctor with no soft skills. He says what he thinks without regard for or understanding of anyone’s feelings. He is a character who is totally absent of soft skills and, thus, makes us squirm and laugh at the same time. I often think to myself, “I can’t imagine anyone thinking or saying that.”
Daniel Goleman refers to soft skills as our emotional intelligence (EI or EQ). He says you can put our soft skills into these four groups or categories:
- Self-awareness – Authenticity, knowing strengths/weaknesses
- Self-regulation – Self-control, adaptability, initiative, attitude
- Social awareness – Empathy, organizational awareness, service
- Relationship management – Inspiring, influential, develops others, change catalyst, conflict manager, team player
According to a survey on AOL the top 10 soft skills employers look for are:
- Strong work ethic
- Positive attitude
- Good communication skills
- Time management skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Team player
- Ability to accept and learn from criticism
- Working well under pressure
When I saw this list it resonated with me – yes, these are 10 soft skills I would like people working with me to have, especially business developers and leaders. So, how can we figure-out if a candidate has these skills or not?
In our organization, we use three techniques to help us evaluate soft skills – (1) Predictive Index (PI) assessments, (2) behavioral interviewing, and (3) work simulations.
In my next Blog post about this topic, I’ll write about how you can use these three techniques to assess someone’s “soft skills.”