The official blog of Abacus Group — a place to share our knowledge and thoughts on trends in recruiting

September 05, 2017

How to Assess a Candidate’s Soft Skills


Assessing a candidate’s soft skills in an interview, just like the conducting of the interview itself, requires that you as the hiring manager are asking open-ended questions. Leading questions where the most desirable answer is “yes” will most likely result in an incorrect reading of the candidate and disingenuous conduct on their part. To get a more accurate understanding of the candidate, be sure to give them the reins and let them showcase their marketable skills.

Candidate Questioning

Instead of asking a candidate if they have a certain soft skill, give them the reins to list the soft skills they believe they have. If you limit how many they can rattle off, you eliminate the possibility of them saying skills simply to appease you in the hopes that one hits the mark. Once they have listed these skills, dig deeper. Suggest that they rank these skills from their strongest to their weakest and take note of where this falls in the scope of what you value in a new hire.

Referral Questioning

When running reference checks on the candidate, remember you have a firsthand insight into the candidate’s professional behavior through this individual. Of course, referrers are more likely than not going to only advertise the positive qualities of the candidate, note that you can ask specific questions in order to get more genuine responses. Ask the referrer what soft skills they believe the candidate possesses and have them explain where their strengths lie and conversely, do not lie. From here you are able to deduce whether or not these soft skills align with what you are seeking. If there is an overlap with what the candidate communicated, the referrer is validating the candidate’s responses. If there is no correlation between the responses from the candidate and referrer, this is cause for concern.

Run Tests

There are several ways to test a candidate’s soft skills. Testing the skills rather than merely asking about them is a more accurate indicator of what the candidate has to offer. Give the candidate a problem-solving question and have them walk you through their logic and process. By doing this you are able to identify their soft skills but if it doesn’t seem clear, ask them to give more detail and maybe even stipulate which soft skill is required and when. There are also online tests of soft skills that you can have candidates sit as a means of gauging their strengths. Hiring managers who do this before the in-person interview use this as a filter for candidates but at what point you have candidates tested is up to your discretion.

Below is an infographic of the most popular interview questions to reveal soft skills, as provided by LinkedIn.

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