Talent Trends: Soft Skills

LinkedIn have published their Global Talent Trends for 2019. The report surveyed thousands of talent professionals around the world to highlight 4 trends that are key to transforming the workplace:

1. Soft skills

2. Work flexibility

3. Anti-harassment

4. Pay transparency

Monday to Thursday this week we’ll cover off a key trend, starting with soft skills.

Workplace Trends Soft Skills screenshot

Hard skills are straightforward to hire for: tick this box or don’t.

They’re verifiable. Or they can be trained. And they remain important criteria to ensure candidates fit a brief.

LinkedIn’s report argues that soft skills are just as valuable and lead to 92% of hiring decisions. On the flip side, they’re also responsible for 89% of firing decisions.

A well-rounded soft skill set’s vital to doing well in recruitment. We explored the topic a few weeks ago, asking how relevant degrees are in today’s marketplace. General consensus is that the extra-curricular qualities a Consultant brings to the table are often more important than their on-paper background.

Creativity – or “solving problems in original ways” – is the most in-demand soft skill according to LinkedIn.

Followed closely by persuasion, then collaboration, adaptability and time management. By definition, soft skills are harder to define than hard skills. For that reason, discussion around what they are or how to measure them varies.

We go into more detail on each in an article: 12 Soft Skills That Can Turn You Into A Super Recruiter. In short, these are:

1. Motivation

2. Adaptability

3. Problem solving

4. Decision making

5. Emotional intelligence

6. Critical thinking

7. Creativity

8. Communication

9. Team working

10. Leadership

11. Negotiation and conflict resolution

12. Time management

soft skills robot 2

“Soft Skills: Where Machines Can’t Compete”

68% of talent professionals assess soft skills at interview with either situational or behavioural questions. Or by reading body language.

This is unreliable, given that interpreting someone’s performance ‘on the day’ is a highly subjective matter. And may not be indicative of a potential employee’s performance long term.

Instead, companies need to work with leaders internally to determine what soft skills make their list of must-haves. For each role, as well in general.

Then hiring managers and recruiters need to be on the same page in terms of what to look for.

At interview, setting problem solving tasks makes the interview more about candidates demonstrating their soft skills, rather than how they sell their on-paper qualities.

Asking every candidate in a process standardised questions is a good step towards eliminating the kind of bias that makes the discussion around skill sets hazy. It allows you to drill down on the skills you know are the most relevant, and gives you a batch of answers to review and benchmark later on.

soft skills iqg

Interview Question Generator

LinkedIn have developed a simple tool that generates a list of questions to ask candidates at interview. Select the soft skills you want to screen for. Pick the questions that are relevant to the role. And generate a downloadable interview guide.

Or write your own. Either way, standardised questions and problem solving tasks allow you to effectively score candidates at interview.

You might find unexpected candidates perform better at time management tasks than fulfilling a creative brief, for example. This could be a deciding factor at interview, and would therefore influence your shortlist.

Taking a data-led approach to screening for soft skills allows you to track outcomes. If your candidate gets canned for missing deadlines, and they scored poorly in a time management task, that might be a factor you need to remember next time.

soft skills adverts

Advertising Soft Skills

Screening for soft skills is only relevant when what you’re asking for’s consistent with your client’s core values and their company culture.

So drill down on soft skills when you’re pulling jobs. Find out what your client’s must-have skill sets are. Ask what candidates need to have done in their careers to demonstrate proficiency in a particular skill. And identify where on the job spec this is most important.

Then include the most pertinent points in your advertising. Ask for the skills you want.

Adverts that focus on soft skills read differently to the majority of reconstituted specs clogging up the market. That alone’s a reason for top talent to pay attention.

We published How to Sell Soft Skills To Your Clients on how to manage the process from pulling a job to making a placement. 

soft skills robot 3

If you believe the hype, new technologies and automation will force the focus increasingly onto soft skills in the future. Moreso than currently. They’ll distinguish not only good candidates, but good Recruitment Consultants and clients too.

Of the companies surveyed in LinkedIn’s report, only 41% had a formal process in place to assess soft skills. It’s not surprising that almost 60% struggle to assess them accurately. So if you’re a Recruiter focussed on soft skills now, you’re likely doing things the majority of companies – and your competitors – aren’t.

Soft skills will always be in demand. Hard skills may drift out of date with the invention of new coding languages or new tech putting historic qualifications out of fashion. But soft skills are timeless.

Focus on them now and the rewards will be yours long into the future.