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Every organization has a hiring horror story. The candidate who looked great on paper. Who aced the interview. And who, after being hired, dragged everyone and everything down into an unproductive, unprofessional, unhappy, workplace inferno. Perhaps Elvis (almost) said it best: ‘She walked like a model employee. Talked like a model employee. How could you realize—she was just not the right person for the job?’ How indeed. Well, it turns out there is a way. The key is to look beyond the immaculate credentials and polished interview patter, and ask some specific questions about job-related soft skills.

Assessing hard skills is easy. They’re concrete, indisputable and easy to categorize, compare and confirm – with things like qualifications, accreditations, diplomas and sheer work experience.

But hard skills are rarely the reason that people fail in your organization.

And that’s the first hard truth every organization needs to learn about soft skills:

#1 Soft skills really count. They’re the true predictors of success in almost any job.

Don’t believe us? Look at it this way. You wouldn’t hire someone without the right hard skills, and neither would anyone else. So why do almost half (46%) of all new hires still fail within the first 18 months?

The difference between those who make it and those who don’t is simple. Soft skills.

These are the real predictors of success in almost any job—be it CFO, event coordinator, nurse or drilling engineer.

Soft skills are actually anything but soft, and can be sorted in key competency areas (use the links below to read our blog series that dives into each of these areas):

That super-qualified candidate with ten years’ experience won’t work out if he or she doesn’t have the skills that really matter for the given job.

And because soft skills are so important, you must be able to assess them accurately and reliably – before you hire.

And that leads us to hard truth number 2…

#2 When it comes to assessing soft skills, traditional hiring procedures simply don’t work.

The tools and processes available to HR managers today just aren’t designed to assess the soft skills that are such an important predictor of success:

  • Interviews – Unfortunately, many candidates know how to research and rehearse all the right answers (research suggests 81% of people lie in job interviews), and a good conversation doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about a candidate’s performance. And they’re a very weak predictor of the soft skills a candidate might possess.
  • Personality tests –Too often, these assessments are not relevant to the job position, and at best, can only indicate how an applicant might perform.  There’s plenty of help readily available for those looking to game the system by researching online the “best” answers.
  • Traditional reference checking – References ought to be powerful indicators but they almost never are. Because hiring managers do too little, too late — and do it far too generically. Information gleaned is rarely job specific and references are often not the right people – how many times have you been routed to an HR office when making a reference call?

Fortunately, there is a simple, surefire way to get a good idea of the kind of soft skills a candidate will bring to your workplace.

Here’s our third and final truth…

#3 The key to understanding the potential for future success is past performance.

It’s that simple. All you really need to do is make sure your hiring process effectively examines each candidate’s previous performance in each of these key competency areas. This means:

  • Identifying the soft skills that are required for the job you’re looking fill
  • Creating specific assessment criteria
  • Seeking detailed feedback from a number of references—managers and co-workers—that explicitly examine these soft skills

You can learn more about Soft Skills and how they matter for your organization’s performance by downloading our eBook Soft Skills, Hard Benefits: Assessing the Key Predictors of Successful Hires or for more insight, listen to this webinar recording.

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