30 August 2021

Hard vs. soft skills in recruitment: what is the difference?

When looking for new employees, we all look for those people that are the most skilled. That is quite literally the first thing everyone takes into consideration when looking for new hires. After all, why would you want to hire someone who has no skills whatsoever?

The problem here is that we tend to focus on hard skills only – a developer’s programming language, an analyst’s financial forecasting skills, etc. And that not only does this heavily impact the size of your talent pool, but it also often leads to bad hires. Think about it: We hire people based on experience, but we fire them on behaviour. That’s soft skills vs. hard skills.

The thing is, if you’re only hiring people based on specific hard skills and experience, you will end up making a big mistake – you will miss out on important job future performance predictors. That is exactly why you need to begin hiring for soft skills and less for hard skills & experience.

In this blog, you will find out:

The difference between hard vs. soft skills

This image depicts the difference between hard and soft skills. Hard skills part visualizes that these type of skills are more tangible, such as certificates, degrees and so on. Whereas, soft skills part visualizes that these skills are abstract and difficult to measure.

What are hard skills

Hard skills are much easier to quantify and measure. These skills concern more job related and technical skills, such as coding language knowledge (think Python or Elyxir),  technical SEO skills,  language skills, designer skills (knowledge of Adobe programs, for example), accounting knowledge, and so on.

And that’s what all the focus should be about when hiring, right? 

Wrong. In fact, over the past few years there has been an increasingly growing demand for soft skills. 92% of talent acquisition professionals report that soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than hard skills! But more about that later on, so just continue reading! 

What are soft skills

Also referred to as interpersonal skills, which consist of cognitive abilities, behavioural and personality traits. These include aspects related to one’s character, ability to work with others, communication skills and any other skills, such as emotional intelligence, that are not always easily taught. Long story short – soft skills are less tangible as they have no one shared definition and are notoriously difficult to measure as a result. Some of the key soft skills include:

This visual shows 5 interpersonal or otherwise called soft skills that are important when it comes to job future performance prediction.

For example, problem-solving is a cognitive trait. Good problem-solving allows us to independently take decisions and to be self-reliant at work. Especially in positions that involve frequent decision making or in which we often get confronted with complex business issues, this is an important skill.

Here’s why soft skills are more important than hard skills

As we are living through times that are more and more characterized by automation of tasks and jobs are constantly changing, soft skills have become as important as ever before. Why? Now, there are 4 main reasons why soft skills are more important than hard skills:

  • Having strong soft skills will lead to a more productive, collaborative and healthy work environment.
  • Cognitive ability (soft skill) contributes to learning ability, which is something you need to keep growing in your role.
  • Jobs are constantly changing, so a lot of jobs won’t be existing in 10 years, but there will also be a lot of new jobs we aren’t aware of yet. Hard skills are very much related to specific jobs, but as jobs are changing, soft skills make it also easier to adjust to a new job and learn that new job quickly.
  • Lastly, a soft skill focus when in a hiring setting will enlarge your talent pool!

3 most important soft skills

Especially in a remote setting, soft skills can make or break one’s success at their job. Flexibility and being structured, collaboration & teamwork, and problem solving in the top 25 soft skills needed to succeed. So, let’s take a look at what these skills entail and why they are important.

Flexibility vs. being structured

Being flexible helps you adapt to change more easily, which is beneficial in a fast-changing environment, but also makes you easily change your plan, which is not always helpful. On the other side of the spectrum, being structured helps you to thrive in routine and helps in successfully executing a plan, but at the same time it will also make it more difficult to work in an environment that changes often or is uncertain.

Teamwork and collaboration skills: collaborative vs. individualistic

Being collaborative will allow you to work better with your team members, but it also might result in slower processes and less independent decision-making. Being individualistic, in contrast to that, allows you to make decisions independently and work more efficiently, but also makes it more difficult to ask for help and feedback.

Problem solving style: systematic vs. intuitive

Being more systematic allows you to better understand and define a problem, before trying to solve it, which usually turns out in fewer errors, but it also takes longer. Being more intuitive, in contrast to that, allows you to take action fast, but it also increases the likelihood of making mistakes.

The danger of not measuring soft skills objectively

If you want to start hiring for soft skills, it is crucial to first collect insights about these skills in an objective way. However, accurately assessing these skills may get tricky since they are intangible and have no one clear definition. So you can imagine the dangers that can arise when you start assessing something that is intangible. 

Many traditional approaches like personality questionnaires provide results that are too subjective to be considered useful. If (soft) skills are not measured objectively, we begin hiring people based on what our own assumptions about their skills are. Sadly, these assumptions are heavily influenced by our own unconscious bias.

My advice to you: make sure to lay out a process of measuring soft skills that is consistent, scalable and prevents bias from impacting your judgement. If you do that, then you should have a clear understanding of what soft skills you should be on the lookout for.

Equalture: Making soft skills tangible

Measuring soft skills objectively does not have to be hard. One way to objectively assess and measure soft skills when assessing candidates is by using game-based assessments.  Game-based assessments allow the candidates to show their natural, unconscious behaviour and abilities at the very start of the hiring funnel.

These games are based on neuroscience, focusing on the brain and its impact on individual behavior and cognitive function. By objectively measuring soft skills you will no longer be hiring people based on your own assumptions. Instead, you will know which candidate possesses what skill. 

Curious about what these games are like? Play a game yourself and find out! 

Or maybe you want to know more about how we can help you with measuring soft skills objectively? Get in touch with us & we will gladly tell you more about it!

Cheers, Anete