Top 9 Soft Skills To Look For When Hiring

With the rise of automation, we will see an upward trend in the demand for soft skills across all industries. The need for finely developed social and emotional skills will rapidly grow to accompany the adoption of advanced technologies in the workplace – skills that computers are a long way from mastering.

It is estimated that by 2030, demand for social and emotional skills will have grown across all industries by 26 percent in the United States and by 22 percent in Europe. While some of these skills, such as empathy, tend to be linked to personality, others, such as advanced communication skills, can be taught and sharpened.

Demand for higher cognitive skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, and decision making will see rapid growth with a 33 percent increase in the United States and a 32 percent rise in Europe. The requirement for employees with leadership and management skills will also increase, as will the demand for entrepreneurship.

The most in-demand soft skills recruiters hire for:

The candidate’s hard skills define what they can do, but their soft skills show you how they do it. So when hiring for soft skills, make sure you identify the priorities for your organisation and hire the right fit.

Let’s look at the nine highly relevant soft skills an ideal employee should have!

1.) Creativity

Often, candidates need to take up responsibilities beyond their job description and go the extra mile to come up with solutions. Creativity goes a long way when you’re hitting a wall with a certain problem and need to look at it with fresh eyes.

In practice, creativity involves developing new ideas and applying new solutions to address existing problems.

Follow these practices when hiring for creativity as a soft skill:

  • Make your interviews more situation-based. Give them real work scenarios.
  • Ask about their past experiences of dealing with a difficult problem. Understand their role in the situation and how they resolved the issue using creativity.

2.) Focus mastery

An ideal candidate must be able to put in their working hours doing productive work. They must be attention-oriented and focused on their job to get the work done on time and with efficiency. This is where their concentration skills come in handy as they allow them to make better short- and long-term decisions.

For example, say a candidate has been involved in a project for a long time. If they’ve been focusing on the project since the beginning, they’ll have a deep understanding of the project, deliver better performance, and have amazing insights to share with the team and stakeholders.

3.) Innovation

There’s always room for improvement. A skilled candidate must be able to identify the areas for improvement in a project and share their ideas with the team.

Being innovative requires improving upon an existing idea, concept, process or method to achieve the desired outcome. And above that, it requires working with a team to make those ideas come to life.

Hire someone who doesn’t hesitate to share their opinions and ask questions—these are the qualities of innovators curious about finding solutions.

Use questions about past experiences and role-play scenarios to identify if the candidate is the right fit.

4.) Communication skills

Any exchange of information in a workplace, including verbal, non-verbal or written communication, requires strong communication skills. You must ensure that your candidate is competent in interpreting information through speaking, listening, writing and observing.

They must be able to listen intently to the information exchanged during a meeting and have takeaways to work on. That’s where their listening and comprehension skills come into the picture!

Furthermore, pay attention to their body language, tone of voice, and overall demeanour. They say a lot about how they conduct themselves at work.

Again, you can test for these skills by asking about previous experiences in which the candidate had to go above and beyond in communication or create a role-play scenario that requires them to demonstrate their active listening and communication skills.

5.) Storytelling

Storytelling is among the top soft skills in demand today. Irrespective of the context and application, the skill never fails to impress a recruiter.

In business terms, storytelling involves organising thoughts and data points into a comprehensive structure. And you’ll know you got yourself a good storyteller when they manage to grab your attention and engage you within seconds of walking in!

Here’s what to look for in a candidate:

  • How they convey a complex piece of information
  • How they introduce themselves
  • How they present their case studies and talk about their work

6.) Culture awareness

Your client’s workplace isn’t just about meetings —it’s also a place where professionals interact, build relationships and create a positive culture. This often involves participating in team-building activities, celebrating a team’s or individual’s wins and achievements, and attending corporate events.

Look for a candidate who:

  • Treats everyone with respect and is interested in being a part of your work culture
  • Can handle working with co-workers from different cultural backgrounds and finds a way to leverage diversity to develop creative solutions
  • Is adaptable to different work requirements and can collaborate with different types of personalities

During your interview, pose questions about previous experiences in which the candidate had to work with people who had different backgrounds. What was their experience like? Were there any gaps they needed to bridge, and how did they succeed?

7.) Critical thinking

A hard worker will finish all tasks on time and focus on getting the work done, while a smart worker will go the extra mile to improve their performance and grow within their organisation.

What you need are smart workers – professionals who naturally have the tendency to contribute to solving problems (even if it isn’t a part of their job description).

Critical thinking generally involves objective analysis and logical evaluation of a topic at hand and forming a judgement.

A critical thinker is:

  • Open-minded
  • Driven toward logical reasoning
  • Capable at making solid arguments
  • In search of clarity, often overcommunicating
  • Open to feedback and constructive criticism

8.) Leadership

No matter what role you’re hiring for—senior-level managers or junior executives— hire a candidate who showcases the qualities of a leader. A leader is someone capable of setting realistic goals in alignment with the organisation’s mission and vision and allocating resources to meet them while coaching their team.

Look for these leadership qualities in your candidate:

  • Time management to meet deadlines
  • A hunger for more knowledge and the passion for improving their skills
  • A sense of responsibility and reliability, so that their team can count on the leader
  • Knowing how to avoid and resolve conflicts in a workplace
  • Empathy toward team members

9.) Emotional intelligence

There are a lot of obstacles and bumps along the corporate path. Unfortunately, things can get ugly if they’re not handled well – particularly in a workplace.

That’s why you need a candidate with the emotional intelligence to overcome difficult situations.

Here are some traits of an emotionally intelligent candidate:

  • Knowing how to control emotions in difficult times
  • Not letting personal problems affect work duties
  • Developing and maintaining strong interpersonal relationships with co-workers
  • Taking criticism like a pro and learning from feedback1