Stop Hiring Solely for Hard Skills and Firing for Lack of Soft Skills

Hard skills. It’s something most companies still (desperately) rely on when hiring someone, because it feels like the safest indicator of hiring success. Or maybe it’s just because we’ve always done it this way. And as we all know, old habits are very, very hard to come back from.

However, the painful truth is that our hiring processes are all about fear. Fear of not being able to hire the right person. Fear of rejecting the wrong candidates. And lastly, fear of not having enough candidates to pick from. 

And as we humans are often afraid of the unknown -we tend to stick to what we know best when hiring. Things that feel safe…

Qualifications above all else… or?

Imagine you are hiring for a software engineer position. When thinking about what would be the perfect hire, you probably have something like this in mind: they should have 5 years of relevant experience, a Masters degree in Software Engineering & they definitely need to know the following three programming languages – React, PHP, or Elixir. 

When looking for new employees, we all look for those people that are the most qualified – the people with the right experience, the right education and the right set of hard skills. 

However, what if there is nobody out there that matches these expectations? And, this is exactly what we hear happens so often with engineers. There just aren’t enough software engineers, when looking at the number of companies hunting for them. Or at least, there aren’t enough experienced software engineers. And most of us desperately look for experienced engineers only, as we want our new team members to be up and running ASAP. 

What goes wrong here: Hire solely for hard skills, fire for lack of soft skills

Hiring for hard skills solely won’t make someone a well-performing engineer in your company. 

For example, the fact that someone can program well in React, PHP, or Elixir is not because they were born with React, PHP or Elixir skills. It’s because they master the skills you need in order to learn and eventually master a programing language – skills such as learning ability, critical thinking, flexibility, and so on. 

Long story short – someone’s hard skills and education only show their eligibility rather than suitability for a role or how successful they will be in it.

Think about it – what you find on a resume is information about someone’s track record, indicating their more job-specific, hard skills. But what you can not be sure about based on a resume, is how smart someone actually is, how someone behaves at work, and what someone’s personality is. 

My question to you then is – why would you continue hiring people based on hard skills and education, if you end up firing them for lack of soft skills? If that is the one aspect that can make or break your success, why are you not placing your focus on gaining better insights into that? 

Soft skills have been dismissed for years because of the word “soft” and in most cases, it is only at the C-suite/executive level that soft skills were once viewed as valuable.  

  • How to lead and inspire
  • How to motivate, manage change, and make wise decisions
  • How to plan strategically and innovate

Everyone else was to do as they were told or trained—merely act as the support team for their leadership.  Don’t think, just follow the leader. 

Luckily this has now changed and people are opening their eyes to the importance of soft skills in the workplace. In fact, around 93% (yes, you read that right) of employers consider these skills as an essential factor when it comes to hiring decisions. 

However, unlike qualifications, education, and hard skills, soft skills are incredibly hard to assess & measure.  You cannot really take a look at someone’s CV and immediately know whether this person is a great problem-solver while simultaneously being a great listener, right? 

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.

Use Case: How Equalture helps you make the intangible tangible

Measuring soft skills objectively does not have to be hard. One way to objectively assess and measure soft skills when looking at your current team composition and assessing candidates is by using game-based assessments.  Game-based assessments allow both your current employees and candidates to show their natural, unconscious behaviour and abilities.

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, and this way you’ll be able to hire people who complement your current team composition.

After all –  in order to scale, you must think long-term and make informed hiring decisions. Hiring decisions that are based on facts and science instead of gut feeling.

There is so much more to say, but…

It’s always better to experience something yourself, right? 😉

A visual of one of the games that is non-cheatable and measures a specific skill/personality trait.

Cheers, Anete

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