4 Ways to Systematically Assess Soft Skills


April 14, 2020


180 Engineering

Soft skills have always been important, but they’re increasingly vital. The rise of automation and artificial intelligence means that hard skills alone are no longer enough to be successful.
Additionally, the valuable life span of many hard skills is shrinking, but soft skills will stay relevant for the long haul.

In LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 80 percent of hiring professionals indicated that they feel soft skills have increased in significance. Additionally, 92 percent say that soft skills matter as much or more than technical skills.

While 92 percent of hiring professionals recognize how critical soft skills are to the success of their organizations, only 41 percent have a formal process to access soft skills and 57 percent struggle to accurately assess soft skills.

Concerningly, 68 percent of hiring professionals in the LinkedIn study indicated that they primarily assess soft skills by picking up social cues during an interview. Unfortunately, these perceptions aren’t predictive, and worse, they’re often unconsciously biased.

Assessing Soft Skills
Source: August 2019 180 Engineering Poll

How to Systematically Assess Soft Skills

  1. Make a list. List the soft skills that are most important to the specific role for which you are hiring. If you haven’t yet determined which soft skills are most important, take inventory of the soft skills possessed by successful members of the team in similar roles. Having a team-wide discussion is often a great way to identify the most important soft skills, and doing so can be a beneficial team-building exercise.
  2. Online tools. Consider some of the emerging online tools to prescreen candidates. While these tools are still in their infancy, an ongoing exploration of tools to help you to remove bias is highly recommended.
  3. Structure interviews carefully. Unstructured interviews often allow unconscious biases to creep into the interviewer’s judgment. Remember, you are working to assess the candidate against the ideal traits you have established—you are not comparing candidates to each other. Furthermore, interviewers must not unconsciously compare interviewees to themselves.
  4. Soft skills in action. Ask problem-solving questions to observe soft skills in action. It is best to present candidates with scenarios that are related to your organization and the position in question. For example, what would the candidate’s approach be if they were asked to make a product feature adjustment within a compressed time frame?