In Part 1, I wrote about hard skills vs. soft skills, and how business leaders, recruiters, and trainers are often not very good at recognizing, evaluating, and dealing with “soft skills.” These are the competencies or capabilities we use when we interact with other people. In this post, I am going to write about how we evaluate “soft skills.”
I mentioned that 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
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 Part 2 I’ll write about how you can use these three techniques to assess someone’s “soft skills.”
Predictive Index. The Predictive Index is a 10 minute on-line assessment developed by PI Worldwide, that gives us insight into many “soft skill” areas. It helps us determine if someone tends to be a (1) team performer or solo performer; (2) introvert or extrovert; (3) impatient or patient for results; and (4) detail-oriented or not. We have found these assessments extremely accurate especially when placing people into accounting and detailed professions or manager roles.
Behavioral Interviewing. Susannah Chance, an experienced human resource professional and colleague at Leddy Group, teaches organizations how to use “behavioral interviewing” as a second method of trying to understand one’s soft skills. Behavioral interviews ask questions that focus on someone’s past behaviors, which are the best predictor of their future behavior or performance. The questions are open-ended and allow the person to explore situations from their past. Let me give you a few behavioral question examples for the soft skills from the top-10 list above.
1. Work Ethic – Describe for us a time when you chose to go above and beyond your normal work hours to achieve a result and what the outcome was?
3. Good Communication Skills – Tell us about a time you had to “sell” an idea or solution to your supervisor or co-workers when you knew they weren't in favor of it to begin with? What happened?
7. Self-Confidence – Tell us about a time when you came up short on your performance, when you didn’t achieve your goal? How did you feel about it? What did you do next?
10. Working Well Under Pressure - Tell us about a situation when you were under a great deal of pressure because of numerous demands competing for your time and attention. How did you resolve the situation?
Behavioral Interview Exercise. In her article Use a Behavioral Interview to Select the Best Susan Heathfield wrote about these 13 soft skills desired for salespeople:
- High energy
- High integrity
- Effective networker
- Money hungry
Try this exercise – Chose five of these soft skills and write a behavioral question for each.
Job Simulations. The third method you can use to evaluate someone’s skills is to put them into job-like situations or simulations and watch and listen to how they perform. For example, before we hire a salesperson or business developer, we ask them to make a “cold call” by phone or in person to a potential business customer of our company. By doing this we learn more about seven (7) soft skills of the person. We learn (1) how prepared the individual is because they should understand our company and services; (2) how enthusiastic they are when faced with new situations; (3) how adaptable they are; (4) how confident they are; (5) how articulate they are; (6) how well they ask questions; and (7) how well they listen.
One of my favorite reads of several years ago is the “Parables of Leadership” by by W. Chan Kim and Renée A. Mauborgne and published in Harvard Business Review. In this series of five parables the authors teach us important leadership lessons. In the parable called “The Sound of the Forest” a king sends his son, the prince, out into the forest to listen and then report back to the king what he “hears.” After being sent back to the forest several times the prince finally returns and says, “when I listened more closely, I could hear the unheard – the sound of the flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew.”
This is the ultimate “soft skill” for leaders – the ability to hear what is unspoken. How is your hearing?