In a recent post I made the contention that soft skills are too important to be called soft. Whatever you call them, most rational people would consider the following not-so-soft soft skills the catalysts for fully enabling a person’s technical abilities.
Non-technical, Business and Leadership Skills Essential for Job Success
- Assertiveness in pushing the status quo.
- Courage in challenging bad ideas, bad decisions and bad processes.
- Influencing others who are not direct reports - especially peers and executives - to make difficult decisions.
- Making commitments and taking responsibility for doing what you said you would without making excuses.
- Collaborating, negotiating and reaching agreement with cross-functional teams on challenging and competing objectives.
- Problem-solving, creative and strategic thinking skills that not only uncover the root cause of any problem but also figure out the optimum solutions.
- Organizational and project management skills to ensure complex team tasks are completed successfully.
- Taking the initiative and doing more than required to meet expectations.
- Communications skills to present ideas clearly and distinctly to the required audiences.
- Adaptive customer service skills regardless of who the customer is.
- Cultural fit with the hiring manager’s style, the pace of the organization and the values of the company.
- Leadership skills to not only figure out the best course of action but also to marshal the resources to deliver the solution.
While these skills are obviously important for on-the-job success, most hiring managers aren’t too good at properly evaluating them. The following is our recommended approach, but candidates need to take control if they’re not being assessed properly.
How to Use Performance-based Hiring to Assess Soft Skills
- Prepare a performance-based job description describing the top 6-8 performance objectives required for on-the-job success.
- Have candidates describe their most comparable major accomplishment for each of the major performance objectives.
- Engage in a back-and-forth discussion around a realistic problem the new hire is likely to face on the job.
- Complete an evidence-based quality of hire talent scorecard measuring the factors that best predict on-the-job performance.
Despite the value of this performance-based interviewing approach, here’s how candidates can intervene when interviewers go off track:
- Before the interview prepare one or two personal examples for each of the non-technical skills listed above that best demonstrates the ability. You’ll be describing these throughout the interview.
- Prepare a short write-up (a few paragraphs) for each example that includes lots of specific details (i.e., names, dates, facts, results, numbers and percentages). Writing them down is a great way to remember them.
- Reverse engineer the job during the interview by asking the hiring manager (very) early in the interview to describe some of the challenges and problems the person in the job is likely to face in the first 3-6 months. This is a great way to demonstrate assertiveness and confidence, too.
- Provide an example of something comparable you’ve accomplished that best demonstrates your ability to successfully handle the problem, task or challenge.
- Include in your example not only some specific facts and details but also how you used some of the non-technical skills to get the results.
- Start asking questions about some of the most significant problems to demonstrate your ability to get to the root cause of a problem. This is a great way to demonstrate your technical and process problem-solving and thinking skills.
- Describe at a pretty high level the plan of action you’d take to implement the best solution if you were to get the job. This is a great way to demonstrate your strategic thinking, organizational and planning skills.
- Get into a give-and-take dialogue to not only better understand the circumstances and issues involved and to demonstrate your listening and communication skills.
- Express an interest in the job if you are, and then ask about next steps. If vague, ask if the interviewer believes there’s something missing in your background and, if so, use the above techniques to disprove it. This is a great way to demonstrate persistence and your negotiating and influencing skills.
Just by forcing the interviewer to ask you the right questions you’re demonstrating you possess most of the required soft skills. You’ll prove you have the rest with your detailed examples and the follow-up questioning approach suggested above. As you can readily see, these are not soft skills, since without them nothing will get done. However, with them
, you’ll not only get any job you deserve but also excel at it.