Valuable soft skills and how to identify them when hiring

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Soft skills are non-technical skills that are transferrable and can be applied in multiple scenarios and job roles. They are qualities, characteristics, and behaviours that make an employee stand out as a dynamic leader or team member. Oftentimes, strong soft skills are a tell-tale sign that a candidate will positively impact your organisation.

Amid the rapid normalisation of remote work, soft skills are crucial success factors. There are evolving approaches to collaboration and innovation, and it is becoming increasingly clear to organisations that these intangibles are vital when building diverse and successful teams in a remote or hybrid work environment. Technical skills can be taught on the job, whereas soft skills are innate; critical thinking, work ethic, and communication often can’t be taught in the same manner.

The age of automation

More and more tasks have become automated, which in most cases has proven to aid in productivity, allowing workers to spend their time more effectively. However, with the rise of automation, soft skills have become critically important, as these skills cannot be replicated by machines. To create balance in the ever-changing world of work, companies need to complement the rise in automation by prioritising the integration of more nuanced, low-profile skills such as communication, emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and adaptability.

What soft skills are the most important?


Adaptability is a soft skill frequently spoken about, and the past two years have called for it repeatedly. The ability to adapt to change (and with that, a positive attitude towards change) can go a long way towards building a successful career.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is another highly desirable trait in business. This soft skill enables you to understand nonverbal cues better and goes hand-in-hand with other skills, including self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. A high EQ will aid in developing better interpersonal relationships and promote a positive work environment.


Effective communication spans far beyond the ability to write an articulate email or speak with co-workers. Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and ineffective collaboration. To thrive in a team setting, it is important to actively listen to your peers. It is arguably one of the most vital soft skills in the workplace.

Work Ethic

Someone with a healthy work ethic will be dedicated and committed to their job role; these individuals can be trusted to achieve deadlines, accomplish tasks to a high standard, and are generally reliable employees. With a strong work ethic comes determination, which signifies that the candidate enjoys challenges and will continue to progress in their career and add value to the organisation.

Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another critical skill employers seek in job applicants. Those who possess this trait can think of new ideas, conceptualise better ways of doing things, and quickly solve issues when they arise. The ability to think analytically and create innovative solutions to complex challenges is invaluable to employers.

How to assess a candidate’s soft skills

Screening for soft skills is not as straightforward and definitive as screening for technical or “hard” skills. One way to assess a candidate’s soft skills is by asking behavioural interview questions. These interview questions are grounded on real-life experiences as opposed to hypothetical scenarios and are known to be an effective method of assessing a candidate’s soft skill set.

Some example questions are:

  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult colleague. What did you do to communicate properly?
  • What would you do if you were assigned multiple tasks with the same deadline?
  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information.
  • Think of a situation you have been in where things didn’t go to plan. How did you react, and what was the outcome?
  • Tell me about the best leader you have worked with and what you learned from that person.

Situational questions similar to those listed above will allow you to understand how the respondent approaches different workplace scenarios. This should give you a good overview of the candidate’s soft skills, paired with how they speak about their past role and experiences.

Another reliable method is referencing. Through speaking to people who have worked for them, with them, or have managed them in the past, you can get an inside look into how this individual works. What a candidate’s former colleagues say about them can speak volumes; if you ask the reference for specific examples, you will gain a holistic view of the candidate. For more hiring advice, please reach out to one of our consultants today