Want to Hire Better Team Members? Evaluate Recruits Based on “Soft” Skills

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Here at Quantified, we take every opportunity we can to remind leaders that what they consider “soft” skills—teamwork, critical thinking, persuasive writing, and (most importantly) communication—aren’t that soft after all. Skills like these may seem, at first, like “nice to haves.” They’re a little wishy washy and hard to measure, but if an employee with great technical skills can also captivate a room, more power to her.

That perspective couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, research is finding over and over again that employee “soft skills” are the foundation of an organization’s success. Here are a few examples:

  • Google’s Project Oxygen, which set out to test the company’s hiring algorithms and determine what recruiters should be prioritizing, found that the seven top skills indicating success have nothing to do with STEM. Instead, they’re all soft skills, including communicating, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking.
  • The GMAC Corporate Recruiter Survey has found for several years that communication is the most important skill recruiters look for in new hires. (In fact, four of the top five skills are communication related.)
  • Dartmouth University president Philip Hanlon has coined the term “power skills” as a more appropriate name for this group of interpersonal abilities.

And it makes sense that “soft” skills would be coming more and more into demand as the nature of work changes, automating many of the hard-skill-heavy tasks and putting human employees in a position that is more about high-level thinking, strategy, and communication than technical labor. As such, savvy recruiters are turning their focus toward “soft” skills as they evaluate potential new hires.

But one challenge remains: since these skills are traditionally more subjective—and therefore more difficult to test for or measure—than their “harder” counterparts, how can a recruiter effectively evaluate candidates based on these traits?

Innovations in Communication Analytics Empower Recruiters to Measure Soft Skills

While personality tests like the Big 5 or the Myers Briggs start to uncover the interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and working style potential hires bring to the table, they are limited by their reliance on self-reporting. Similarly, reference checks and 360 feedback reports are constrained by bias.

But here at Quantified, we’ve been looking for a way to measure soft skills in a way that is totally objective and transparent. We do it through communication. Our machine-learning-driven platform is built on a foundation of academic research and world-class communication expertise, and when recruiters use it to measure potential employees’ communication through (HireVue interviews or any other recorded sample), they unlock two categories of critical information about the candidates:

  1. How well do they communicate? Beyond subjective feedback or instinctive responses, the platform returns data-driven measurements of each candidate’s communication capabilities, including details on how they stack up against some of the world’s most successful leaders and communicators. This is the most critical soft skill in business, and now recruiters can measure it.
  2. What kind of employees will they be? Even deeper than communication skills and audience perception, we can use candidates’ communication styles to answer the questions those personality tests seek to answer: What kind of leader will this candidate be? Is he a good team player? Is she a self-starter? But because we’re measuring these things through subconscious communication signals rather than through self-reported personality tests, we eliminate any bias and subjectivity that could otherwise color our results.

Hiring new employees is expensive—and replacing poor hires is even more so. So as the workforce evolves and the keys to success trend more toward “soft” skills than STEM skills, the organizations that can find efficient, effective ways to pick the right new employees out of the candidate pool will find themselves with a leg up over the competition.