Finding a candidate with the right soft skills: What employers should be looking for

Finding a candidate with the right soft skills is hugely topical, with experts claiming that hard skills will get a candidate to interview, but soft skills will get them the job. This article in the Guardian took a look at the importance of candidates understanding soft skills, but what about the employers? How can they identify the personality traits they should be looking for?

Hopefully my experience in the recruitment industry will help me in providing some advice for employers looking to improve their recruitment through making the most of soft skills analysis. Having recruited employees across many different sectors, industries and for all sorts of roles, I really believe that getting a good personality match can make all the difference to a successful placement.

Of course, skills and experience are still a necessity but in today’s market it is proving critical that when recruiting you find the right personality fit (softer skills) for the culture of your business, which also means they need to fit in well with your current team.

So, how do you do this?

I will talk about three methods…


Method 1: Evaluate the core values of your business and tailor your interviews

One of the best methods starts with looking at your own core values of the business. The popular ones centre on honesty, integrity, loyalty, leadership and delegation.

With your core values in mind, you can build in competency-based questions into your interview process, which provide the candidate with the opportunity to demonstrate their values and provide examples of when their soft skills have come into action. For instance, try asking: “Give me an example of when you showed integrity in your last role”.

From this initial question, the interviewer can then ask some more probing questions, possibly to clarify a particular point. This will help to establish a wider picture of the candidate.

For SMEs this may involve starting from scratch if you have yet to put core values in place for your business. They start to create a brand for your business and are a great motivator for the current team.

For larger corporate businesses, core values are highly accessible, usually on the business website or displayed in offices, visibly in meeting rooms, corridors etc


Method 2: Make use of psychometric testing

More and more companies are opting to use psychometric testing as a way to really “get to know” the candidate. Psychometric tests are used to identify a candidate’s aptitudes, personality, or ability and are normally in the form of an online questionnaire and can include verbal reasoning, numerical tests and spatial reasoning. You can find out more about psychometric testing on our added value services page.

Psychometric testing will demonstrate different themes of a candidate’s psyche. And will enable you to further question around such themes as: leadership, delegation and personal motivation for example.

This can be a tool used prior to an interview, during the interview and as part of your CV screening process.


Method 3: Always include a person specification

A person specification is often forgotten! It has many benefits and can be a further tool in your recruitment process for effective recruitment and selection.

Simply put, a person specification outlines the type of person you want for the role: a self-starter? Enthusiastic? Creative? You decide what characteristics you want to see in your next hire, and a person specification can alleviate biases whilst becoming a further tool in your armoury to find a successful candidate who will fit your culture and team.

It will make you, the employer, think more deeply about the softer skills required for this particular role too – what is essential and what is desirable, which all helps when it comes to the interview stage.


What are the overall benefits?

Competency questions, psychometric testing and person specifications are three great methods to add immediate and effective value to your recruitment and selection process. And are already demonstrating great results with our local clients. These methods work across a multitude of industries, are not job specific and should enable you to have more control over who you choose to employ.

By utilising such methods and questioning at interview stage (albeit using competency questions and/or psychometric testing) you will ensure that you’re saving time and money, plus it’s a cost opportunity for your business!

Investing in your recruitment process also demonstrates a loyalty to current employees, as you are being more selective about who joins your special team. Morale up – and you’ve got yourself and all round win, win situation!

About the Author

Anne Corder

Anne Corder


Whilst still actively handling recruitment assignments, Anne specialises in Human Resources with many years of experience in that sector. She blogs on wider recruitment issues affecting both candidates and clients, commenting and offering tips and advice to help achieve the right outcomes.