The importance of hiring for soft skills and how to do it

Rachael Lynch, Client Director at We Grow Startups,


In today's rapidly changing business environment, hiring the right employees is essential for a company's long-term success. Soft skills such as effective communication, teamwork and problem solving are the foundation for a high functioning team in any business and you can test for them in a variety of ways including role play, assessments, behavioural interview questions, reference checks and group interviews.

Read on to learn how to identify the essential soft skills for each role in your team and how to test for them.

What are soft skills?

First things first, there is nothing “soft” about soft skills! Soft skills are the foundation of a positive and prosperous workplace.

While working out what you need from your next hire, considering the soft skills that are vital for success in the role is the first step. These skills will be unique to the role you are hiring and depend on the job function, seniority level, industry, etc. However, here are a few examples of soft skills that are universal for any role:

  1. Effective communication: In any organisation, clear and concise communication is critical to ensuring that projects run smoothly and deadlines are met. Employees with strong communication skills can effectively share ideas, listen to others, and resolve conflicts, thereby fostering a more collaborative and productive work environment.
  2. Problem-solving and critical thinking: Employees with strong problem-solving skills can identify issues, analyse them objectively, and develop creative solutions. These individuals can think on their feet and adapt to new situations, making them invaluable assets to any team.
  3. Adaptability and resilience: In today's fast-paced business landscape, companies must be agile and responsive to change. Employees who are adaptable and resilient can easily adjust to new circumstances, learn from their experiences, and stay focused on achieving their goals.
  4. Teamwork and collaboration: A successful company is built on a foundation of teamwork and collaboration. When employees have strong interpersonal skills and can effectively work with others, they are more likely to contribute to a positive work environment, resulting in increased employee satisfaction, retention, and overall productivity.
  5. Emotional Intelligence: This is defined as the ability to perceive, interpret, demonstrate, control, evaluate, and use emotions to communicate with and relate to others effectively and constructively. This ability to express and control emotions is essential, but so is the ability to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others.1 Employees with high emotional intelligence are able to build strong working relationships, navigate challenging situations, and demonstrate empathy towards colleagues.
  6. Time management and organisation: Efficient time management and organisational skills enable employees to prioritise tasks, manage their workload, and meet deadlines. Employees with these abilities can contribute to increased productivity and overall business success.

How can you hire for soft skills?

Although it is trickier to assess soft skills than hard skills, there are ways to do it. Start by including soft skills in your job descriptions, which will help potential candidates understand the expectations and self-assess their suitability for the role. You must also make sure you have a clear plan of how you will evaluate these skills during the hiring process. Examples include:

  1. Behavioural interview questions: During the interview process, use behavioural interview questions to get candidates to share examples of how they have demonstrated particular soft skills in past experiences. For instance, to evaluate problem-solving skills, you could ask: "Can you describe a challenging situation you encountered in a previous role and how you resolved it?".

Tools such as Spotted Zebra use skills-based assessments that enable you to identify the best candidates throughout each stage of the recruitment process. Their platform can provide specific behavioural interview questions that will enable you to probe further into the skills that a candidate may have scored low on in the assessment so you can delve deeper into their way of thinking.

  1. Role-playing scenarios: Use role-playing exercises into the interview process to observe how candidates handle various situations. These scenarios can be tailored to the specific role and could be designed to assess the candidate's communication, teamwork, or problem-solving skills.
  2. Emotional intelligence assessments: These evaluate a candidate's ability to perceive, understand, and manage their emotions and those of others.1 These can provide valuable insights into a candidate's interpersonal skills and their potential fit within the company culture.
  3. Group interview activities: Group interviews can be an effective way to assess a candidate's teamwork and collaboration skills. By observing how candidates interact with one another, you can gain insight into their ability to work effectively in a team setting.
  4. Reference checks: Ask previous employers about the candidate's soft skills. This can provide valuable information about their past performance in areas such as communication, teamwork, and adaptability.


If you’d like to learn more about our appraoch to hiring, get in touch with