How to Hire People with “Soft Skills”

Companies don’t define the “soft skills” they want

The LinkedIn study cited by the WSJ article listed several key soft skills: communication, organization, capacity for teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, social savvy, creativity, and adaptability. Now, go ahead and define each one of those fuzzy terms in clear and measureable ways (here’s some help for “creativity”). When you’re done banging your head against the wall trying to do it, you’ll understand that the problem is not lack of talent, but defining the conception of it. When I consult for companies on their hiring processes, one of the most important discussions I have with the client is about creating a clear conception of the role and the candidate to fit it.

Companies have broken hiring processes

One of the most surprising reasons that companies can’t find what they are looking for is because their search process is full of bugs. I have discussed this issue extensively in the past, but here’s a recap of how to do good hiring:

  1. Your company should always be hiring with a wide-angle lens to look for talent
  2. Define your conception of “talent” before you start the search
  3. Treat your applicants properly
  4. Make sure your company and management are ready for good hires
  5. Use your network to find good candidates (for lower-level positions, ask a college professor!)
  6. Include the roles, metaskills, and deliverables in the job description.

Companies have too shallow of a talent pool

Companies tend to concentrate their hiring in only a few places, and that means large swathes of candidates are being glossed over and/or ignored. Several years of teaching in the inner-city have shown me how easily minorities and people from lower socioeconomic statuses are ignored in the job market even when they are among some of the most talented people around. Advising my students on getting jobs, I have seen that companies restrict the times that they are hiring, the boards on which they post jobs, and the sliver of the general public to which they brand and market themselves. If you want the best for your company, you need to widen your reach/exposure and recognize that many of the best candidates for a given position may not be ready-made hires.

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Self-actualization engineer who makes workplaces great places to work. PI at Quality of Life Lab (www.qllab.org). Consultant. Professor. Startup Advisor.

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Orin Davis

Orin Davis

Self-actualization engineer who makes workplaces great places to work. PI at Quality of Life Lab (www.qllab.org). Consultant. Professor. Startup Advisor.