When looking at candidates for a role, typically the first thing you’ll screen is if they hit each of the job requirements. These requirements are skills, experiences, education levels, etc. that are the minimum of what the next team member in this role needs to have. These are your hard skills, the ones you earn and learn throughout a career. So once you’ve cut the list of top-funnel candidates down, you’re still left with a big bucket of candidates that you now need to phone screen and weed out further.
This is where soft skills come in.
Typically during the phone screen, you’re going to get a feel for professionalism, cultural fit, personality, work ethic—all soft skills that are important. The problem is, these can be sort of…vague. Cultural fit is really the only one that you can define, and that’s because it’s so specific to each company. All the others are just the terms that sound like something you want your candidates to have.
Rather than trying to make your candidates hit undefinable targets, here are the three definitive soft skills that you should look for in candidates, no matter what their role is. They each have a clear definition, but you’ve got to know what you’re looking for and why you’re looking for it:
A candidate who has good time management skills is going to be someone who can handle the gig, whatever it is. They’re going to be able to take on multiple tasks, prioritize them, and get them done in an efficient manner. Even if they aren’t going to hit their deadlines, they’ve been pacing themselves so closely that they’ll see ahead of time it’s going to be a miss and can keep you updated. Essentially, this is going to be a person you can pass items off to and know they’re going to get done.
So, how do you find it? Ask candidates to describe a time when they had multiple projects and how they handled it. Keep an ear out for organizational strategies they used and ways they coped with having multiple projects, including delegating parts of it and keeping their manager abreast of issues they were having.
It’s a soft skill that’s so underappreciated. The ability for someone to take a step back and admit when they were in the wrong is someone who will be a good teammate and a good direct report. They aren’t going to hide mistakes from their managers, and they aren’t going to scapegoat their coworkers or make up excuses—they’re going to identify what they did wrong and how they can do it better next time.
Best way to see if a candidate has it? Ask about a time they were in the wrong or did something incorrectly. How did they handle it? If they don’t mention owning up to the mistake, it’s gotta be a pass on this candidate.
Last, but not least, the big daddy of soft skills. A candidate who has respect for others is going to encompass so many other soft skills. Having respect for themselves means they’ll always do their best because they want to put their best foot forward; having respect for the team means they’re going to take mess ups personally; having respect for their manager means they’re not going to have a bad attitude about work. There are just so many benefits to having a candidate that exemplifies respect.
Simultaneously, this might be one of the harder ones to identify. Some key things to look out for in a phone screen: politeness, knowledge of the job, speaking kindly of their current or past jobs, just an overall good attitude about things.
If your candidates can hit each of these soft skills, and they also have the cultural fit and hard skills you’re looking for in the job requirements, it’s time to get that offer letter ready.