Hire for the soft skills

hireRemember a few years ago when it was simple to hire? There were so many people that had been displaced by the recession that finding a qualified and available candidate was a piece of cake.

That is definitely not the case today. The employee shortage is real and in certain sectors, it’s a serious crisis. Not only does that make it harder to find that next vital team member but it means that every hire is even more critical because you can’t afford to make a mistake and have to start all over again.

We have all experienced the cost of a bad hire. It’s the cost of the investment you made in recruiting, interviewing, training and onboarding them. But it’s also the cost of the damage they do if they’re not as qualified as you think. The staff suffers too when you have a bad hire. Not only do they have to pick up the slack (again) while you replace the bad hire but it ripples through the fabric of your culture.

The only thing worse than a bad hire is a hire that is a bad culture fit because they don’t have the soft skills that you need. It’s easy enough to interview for and test for aptitude. It’s a completely different challenge to screen an applicant for the difficult to discern or measure traits like leadership, adaptability and how they match your culture. And yet, those are the elements that will most likely determine how successful this candidate is in your company.

Why am I talking about hiring in a marketing column? It’s simple – your employees are your biggest marketing expense. Every day their choices, behaviors, and attitudes translate your brand into how your customers and prospects see you. There is no better insight into a business’ heart and soul than to observe its employees.

We have to interview better. We need to ask more questions that give us a peek into how the person works, rather than if they can do the work. Let’s assume you use the first 10-15 minutes of an interview to determine if the candidate is able to do the tasks of the job. (You should be doing onsite testing too but that’s a different topic.)

After they’ve cleared that hurdle, most interviewers actually go into selling mode, talking about the company and trying to woo the applicant. Avoid that temptation and instead, ask questions like these to get a read on their soft skills.

  • Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you’d never done before. How did you react? How did you approach it? What did you learn?
  • What has been the biggest change you’ve ever had to deal with? How did you adapt to that change?
  • What’s the most interesting or surprising thing about you that is not on your resume?
  • What’s the biggest misperception that coworkers might have about you and what might make them think that it’s true?
  • Describe a time when you were working on a team and someone on the team did not understand you. How did you know they weren’t tracking with you and what did you do?
  • What was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make in the last six months? How did you approach it?

These are tough questions to ask and even tougher to answer. Which is the point. You’re considering setting this person loose inside your organization. They’re going to influence your team and either impress or alienate your best clients. I know it’s easier to interview with safe questions that only focus on the tasks of the job. But if you get this wrong – it’s a mistake that can cost dearly.

Ask the hard questions. Find the right brand advocate. It’s worth the effort.

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