Avoid Making Assumptions About Candidates' Soft Skills When Interviewing

Don’t Confuse Disability with Inability!
Some job candidates will be quite personable during the interview, which may lead you to believe they possess a broader range of soft skills than they actually do. Other candidates, however, might make a more neutral or even negative first impression. Whether due to nervousness, lack of knowledge about the interview process, or social deficits which may or may not be related to a disability, it’s important not to make snap judgments about a person’s skill set or ability to do the job.

When your initial opinion of a candidate is, at best, mediocre, it may be difficult to imagine him as a contributing member of your team. But if you take the time to gain a solid understanding of what each applicant brings to the table, you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you can uncover!

Why should you go through the trouble? After all, isn’t it the candidate’s responsibility to “sell” himself to you during the interview? In a perfect world, yes, every job candidate would put his best foot forward when meeting potential employers. In reality, however, some may not have learned to showcase their soft skills during an interview, or even their importance in the workplace. You could be missing out on highly qualified talent if you don’t make the effort to draw out the skills of these individuals through questioning. Behavioral interviewing is a very effective technique for doing just that.

Determine in advance the skills that are most important to the job for which you’re recruiting, and develop a list of focused interview questions. For example, to assess whether a person can handle difficult customers, you might ask: “Tell me about a time when a customer treated you rudely and how you dealt with the situation.” If you’re looking for a problem solver, ask: “What has been your biggest work challenge and how did you overcome it?” If teamwork is important: “Have you ever had to partner with a co-worker who didn’t carry his weight? What did you do to gain his cooperation? Were you successful?

Through behavioral interviewing, you can uncover a candidate’s past words and actions (behaviors) in circumstances similar to those he may face in your workplace, allowing you to evaluate his skills and suitability for the job at hand. Regardless of which soft skills you’re trying to assess – professionalism, communication, self-management, problem solving, integrity, teamwork, customer service, perseverance, and countless others – behavioral interviewing is a powerful tool.

In addition, posing the same set of questions to all applicants ensures that you’re comparing their skills and qualifications, rather than your initial reaction to each – essentially leveling the playing field and getting to the heart of what’s truly needed to succeed in the job.

Making these small changes to your mindset and interview practices will help you identify the best candidates for your organization.

That said, your focus on soft skills shouldn’t end once you’ve made an informed hiring decision based on what you learned during the interview process. To further explore the importance of employee soft skills to your organization, and learn easy-to-implement strategies for continually assessing and reinforcing these traits and attributes in your workforce, check out our post titled Get the Most Out of Soft Skills Training by Providing Ongoing Support and Reinforcement

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