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Hard & Soft Skills - What you need to know when interviewing

September 17, 2018

Why Do Some People Achieve Their Goals in New Jobs and Others Do Not?

Statistics indicate a worrying trend that many people fail in new jobs despite the initial promise they show in their interviews. Businesses take a gamble every time a new employee is hired even with apparently good interviewing, selection and training policies.

Understanding the main reasons why new employees are dismissed can help you avoid this happening to you. The only comprehensive study of employee failure is by Leadership IQ. Their report found that:

• 46% (just under half) of all newly hired employees fail within 18 months and only 19% achieve unequivocal success.

• Most surprisingly this research shows that when new hires fail 89% of these are for reasons relating to attitude. Contrary to popular expectation, the primary reason for failure is not a lack of technical skills.

When assessing hiring failures it is found that people don’t underperform because they lack technical skills. People underperform because they lack soft skills. 

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills can be acquired but cannot be specifically taught or evaluated.

Examples of soft skills are:

  • Strong and professional communication skills
  • Time management
  • Organisational skills
  • Reliability, sense of responsibility and job commitment
  • Motivation and teamwork

While hard skills are necessary for any position, soft skills are crucial in the successful utilisation of hard skills in achieving employment goals. Most employers value mind set or the ability to think critically and make logical decisions. These skills shape how you respond to situations.

Many employers set great store by employees who are determined, dependable, innovative, and collaborative. Soft skills are subjective and are associated with personal attributes and character. Soft skills are often described as people skills or interpersonal skills revealing how one relates and interacts with other people.

What Are Hard Skills?

While, in contrast, soft skills are a complete collection of our social, communication and self-management ability that enable us to work and integrate into a work place.

Soft skills are the capabilities that enhance or emphasise the hard skills. It is not that technical skills are unimportant; just that they are much easier to assess and that is why attitude (mindset) is the most important predictor of a new hire’s success or failure.

Hard skills are specific technical skills based, and these are teachable.

Some examples of hard skills are:

• Academic qualification such as a degree

• Proficiency in computer programming

• Customer Service experience

• Speaking a foreign language

• Operating a type of machinery

Most companies do a good job of judging candidates’ technical skills. Some conduct day-long interviews focused on complex manufacturing methods, project management skills, and data analysis. Then, in the last half an hour, the interviewer will ask some non technical questions, often as an afterthought.

Hard skills are usually related to professional knowledge, tools or techniques that allow us to work within our profession.

Most Interviewers Find Soft Skills Difficult To Assess

Some of these could be:

  • Repeatedly completing high-quality work on time

  • Persuading others to consider different technical points of view

  • Coaching and being coached on technical and non-technical matters

  • Working successfully for a variety of managers, each with their own individual style

  • Remaining flexible enough to handle rapidly changing design requirements, yet still hitting deadlines

  • Making tough decisions with limited information and often dealing with ambiguity

  • Challenging conventional wisdom and authority

  • Helping team members who are struggling

  • Taking over without being told that a project is in trouble

  • Managing multiple projects to a timeline

  • Meeting budget restraints and their implications

  • Prioritising with little direction.

Most companies find that these all-important questions are not asked, and, with hindsight soft skills are almost always to blame for a person failing to deliver. When asked what makes the best manager in their business, it’s usually that their soft skills make the real difference.

If soft skills are not discussed, you could easily find that some candidates with extraordinary soft skills have been excluded because they didn’t meet the company’s benchmark for technical standards.

These are the people who could have become your best managers. To assess the area of soft skills, the role has to be reviewed in order to list the soft skills relevant to reduce the probability of job failure or under performance.

How To Identify Candidates’ Soft Skills

Some headlines that could be assessed are:

Planning - How do you work out what your top priorities are?

Initiative - Describe the most recent situation where you found you had a work related problem. What did you do to resolve it?

Communication - Have you ever given instructions that someone didn’t follow? If so, why do you think that happened?

Integrity - Have you had to deal with a coworker who wasn’t pulling his or her weight? If so, what did you do about it?

Leadership - Did you ever need co-operation from a group over which you had little authority? If so, how effective were you?

Persuasiveness - What strategies have you found work best when trying to sway someone to your point of view?

Sales - Describe the main types of people you target. What approach do you use for each group?

At Precision we have embedded soft skill assessments into our client hiring processes by identifying the non-technical skills required for a position. These non-technical skills and assessments are integrated into the interview process.

The interviewer introduces the measurement of non-technical skills early in the interview process, rather than leaving this critical area to the end.

By using this strategy, potentially great hires wouldn’t be inadvertently excluded. One of the best ways to tell if applicants have the skills to perform specific tasks is to directly ask how they’ve used those skills in the past.

To find out more please contact us for an informal discussion of how you can lower your hiring failure rate and make a real difference to your business on 0116 254 5411 today.