Why Soft Skills are key for Candidates and Employees

Posted on Monday, February 6, 2023 by Graham Quinn

Also known as inter-personal skills, soft skills are increasingly valued by employers. Skills like communication, critical thinking and problem-solving make a huge difference to how well an employee will perform, despite their level of technical ability.

In 2017, a joint study done by Boston College, Harvard University, and the University of Michigan found that soft skills training increases productivity and retention by 12 percent, with a 250% ROI.

However, soft skills are often harder to identify in candidates than technical proficiencies. According to Manpower Group’s 2022 Talent Shortage Survey, UK employers report that critical thinking and analysis skills (26%), resilience and adaptability (24%), and leadership / influencing abilities (24%) are some of the most difficult to identify.

As soft skills are often what set apart a candidate who looks good ‘on paper’ will be good ‘in person’, recruiters are beginning to use new methods to identify soft skills in their hiring process.


Which Soft Skills are the most Important?

Some skills are more obviously linked to certain roles. For example, communication skills are important for salespeople and teachers. However, there are certain soft skills which are essential to high-performance in almost every role.

Here are the Soft Skills all employers are looking for:


  1. Problem-solving


    Problem-solving is an essential part of any job. Employees who can think on their feet and resolve issues for themselves will obviously make any business run more smoothly. It’s not surprising that, according to a recent Indeed survey of 1,000 hiring managers, problem solving is the #1 sought-after workplace skill.

    An aptitude for problem solving is linked to other in-demand skills, such as creativity, resilience, and conflict-resolution. This makes problem-solving a good skill to identify in candidates.


  2. Effective Communication Skills


    Previously, communication skills have been seen as essential for specific roles, such as for sales people, lawyers, and financial advisors. Whilst some careers require less customer interaction and relationship building than others, employees with good communication skills ultimately make teams and organisations more successful.  

    A recent article by Forbes found that ‘90% of employers said poor communication has negative impacts like increased costs (45%), missed deadlines (39%), decline in brand reputation (34%) or reduced productivity (28%) and that ‘86% of people believe a lack of effective communication and collaboration skills are the main causes of workplace failure.’

    Good communication skills improve overall performance as they are key to developing effective collaboration. This is also something which has become more challenging in today’s hybrid work environments.


  3. Flexibility


    Employees who adapt quickly to change become increasingly important, as many jobs and industries are being transformed by new technologies. Whether changes are in processes, organisational structure, or in the company’s goals, change is often necessary to enable businesses to grow.

    Employees who are flexible to new ways of working are valuable in many jobs and industries. On the other hand, employees who are resistant to change hamper a company’s ability to make progress.


  4. Drive


    Like problem-solving, drive is a soft-skill that is closely related to other desirable qualities, such as motivation, determination and having a strong work-ethic. While the Cambridge Dictionary describes motivation as ‘the willingness to do something’ drive goes one step further. Drive suggests an employee who is self-motivated and self-directing, with a strong personal work-ethic. Employees who are driven by an instinctive desire to improve outcomes are also likely to be resilient and maintain high standards of work.


  5. Creativity

The World Economic Forum states that creativity is, or is related to nine of the ten skills that will define our world in the 2020’s and beyond. By its very nature, creativity incorporates both soft and technical skill. Creative employees bring new ideas to improve processes and suggest potentially lucrative opportunities for a business to explore.

Creativity in prevents businesses from becoming stagnant and outdated. It is also beneficial for problem-solving, as it provides a big-picture view and enables businesses to focus on what’s important.


Why it’s important for employers to value soft skills


Taking into consideration the current talent and skills shortage in the globally, it is necessary for leaders to develop their employee’s soft skills to help them be productive, effective, and motivated.


Employee’s soft skills can be developed in many ways, such as through opportunities for collaboration, through mentoring schemes, and investing in soft skills training.


How can employers identify soft skills in candidates?


Most candidates claim to possess certain soft skills in their resumes, but how can recruiters test whether would-be employees are providing an accurate assessment of these skills?


Assessing them using traditional interview techniques can be difficult. However, using behavioural, and situational questions is an effective approach. Behavioural questions require candidates to back up skills they claim to have in their resume with examples from their personal experience.

Some examples of common behavioural questions are:


  • Tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work, and how you dealt with it
  • Tell me about a time when you had to manage competing priorities



Situational interview questions are hypothetical. They require candidates to think on their feet about how they would respond to a given problem. For instance, commonly used situational questions include:


  • What would you do if you had a problem with a colleague?
  • How would you deal with a difficult client or customer?


Both behavioural and situational questions help recruiters separate the candidates who are simply good on paper from those who have developed and can demonstrate essential soft skills.


Get Expert help identifying Soft Skills in Candidates


A good recruiter discusses client requirements for each assignment and what they want in terms of a meaningful shortlist of candidates for a specific role. High-level interviewing techniques can be tailored to client requirements, enabling them to separate candidates who are good on paper from those who have the necessary skills to be successful.


Wireless Mobile International Search has successfully recruited high-functioning employees for the Telecoms industry for over 18 years. We focus on finding candidates with the soft skills that drive success for our clients. Contact us today to see how we can support your business.



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