Talent Management • 3 min reading

Why bet on soft skills during recruitment?

Are you looking for the rare gem? Is the labour shortage giving you trouble? Has the turnover rate within your company reached unprecedented proportions? What if it was because you don’t place enough emphasis on soft skills when recruiting talent?

Soft skills are becoming more and more sought after. My colleague, Sophie Maignan was even called upon with respect to her experience for an article published in January 2022 in La Presse. What I understood is that in a candidate-driven market, betting on soft skills can quickly become an asset for recruiting. Of course, hard skills are still necessary, but being open to other candidate qualities can prove to be very beneficial.

As for me, I had the pleasure of moderating a Live Discussion on the subject, which took place on March 4th. The participants all seemed to agree: betting on soft skills is when acquiring talent is essential.

Why take interest in soft skills?

For a long time, soft skills were only a differentiating variable when two candidates have a similar “technical” profile. That said, soft skills seemingly play a predominant role in today’s job market. In fact, 92% of talent acquisition professionals reported that soft skills are as, if not more, important than hard skills. About 89% of them also believe that when a recently hired employee decides to leave their role, it’s because they lack the required soft skills.

It’s easier to teach hard skills to someone than to have them develop soft skills. With that, we need to ensure we have the means to train our people and commit to doing it.

Toxic colleagues can negatively impact other team members. Conversely, we can see a positive ripple effect when people in place demonstrate the desired soft skills. Respect and authenticity are qualities that have a great influence on the work atmosphere and ultimately on employee retention and performance.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills include personal and social skills, personality traits, attitude, as well as social and emotional intelligence. Soft skills enable employees to navigate the work environment, to work with others, to perform and to ensure they can reach their goals.

Instead of looking for people that have the specific hard skills for a given position, you can focus on the candidates’ potential and the willingness to grow. The list of soft skills is long but here are some of the most sought after:

  • Ability to work in a team
  • Communication skills
  • Stress and time management
  • Empathy
  • Creativity
  • Diplomacy
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Work ethic
  • Etc.

Some things to consider

While recruiting, bringing up the corporate culture is essential. In doing so, it is easier to determine if there is a fit between the employer’s and the candidate’s values.

In addition, it could prove necessary to coach the managers. We have to understand that the desire to quickly fill a job opening must not become a barrier to targeting soft skills. Thus, hiring a candidate that does not meet the expectations (particularly regarding human relations), results in costs related to turnover. By holding managers accountable on the matter, there is a better chance to successfully hire candidates that will be the right fit. And so, managers have to adopt a new role and know how to motivate, recruit and retain the employees.

When posting a job opening, a winning strategy is to outline less technical requirements while keeping a limited number of essential skills. This allows you to attract more candidates with interesting soft skills that would have perhaps refrained from applying otherwise.

The behaviour-based interview and scenario-based role-play are useful to validate some of the candidate’s personality traits and qualities. With that said, priority goes to open questions, for example: what are you passionate about? What are you looking for in a job? In what type of working environment do you feel the most comfortable? What contributes to your pride and satisfaction towards a job?

The interviews conducted by a group (or a panel) also allows for more than one perspective at a time. Having more than one person to listen to how the candidate reasons and communicates as well as studying their non-verbal reactions, makes gathering the required information easier. It is also possible to rely on tests and predictive indexes to pinpoint what motivates the candidate.

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