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Recruitment tips

Recruiters: Value soft skills over work experience

eye 200 Published on 22 Aug. 2023
tag #Soft-skills

Let's be clear, we're not getting rid of the consideration of professional work experience when it comes to recruiting. Of course, work experience is still useful in assessing a candidate's potential and success in a job. But it should not be taken at face value. In fact, professional work experience is not very reliable when it comes to predicting performance in a new position. Soft skills, on the other hand, account for 80% of the performance.

Let's take a look at the impact of soft skills and how to capitalise on past experiences to predict success in the workplace.

How soft skills determine performance at work

Let’s imagine some scenarios. Diego's CV states that he has worked with technical software for the last 5 years. Louise has taken calls in English and Spanish whilst working for an international company. And Sophie mentions that she has experience in leading a team of 12 people. These experiences are substantial, but how do they predict the ability of these candidates to succeed in their future positions?

When the software Diego uses becomes obsolete, will he be able to learn quickly enough to keep up to date with new changes? If his future company uses another software program, how quickly and easily will he be able to adapt to the software programme?

And for Louise, who seems to have a good grasp of foreign languages, will she know how to handle upcoming calls while taking into account the cultural norms of her customers or clients? Does she have the understanding, listening skills and flexibility that will enable her to adapt to each individual in order to create a relationship of trust, develop a solid network or build customer loyalty?

Now Sophie, who has experience in managing a medium-sized team, will she be able to inspire and develop an awareness of current issues in order to unite a multi-generational team? What do we know about her leadership style? And does she have interpersonal qualities as required by the job? Is she capable of deploying the new skills expected of a manager, such as empathy, availability and managerial courage?

From these scenarios, we can see how important it is to not only look at a candidate’s work experience, but to also consider their soft skills in order to fully understand and evaluate the potential and value that they may bring to their new position.

Soft skills: A response to the new reality

Recruiters need to change their approach to recruitment. The world of work is undergoing unprecedented change, and this is having an impact on the way we recruit.

Previously, it was normal to consider a candidate's professional work experience in terms of what they had already acquired. These could include mastering a software program, speaking several languages and knowing how to manage a team. Today, this is no longer sufficient enough to predict performance.

One reason is that technical skills for example, quickly become obsolete. It's no longer a question of knowing what software, method or technique a person has experience with, but rather whether they are able to keep up with developments in their field.

On the other hand, the evolving changes in the world of work, which we expect will continue, require not only the ability to adapt to one's job, to a team and to a company, but more about navigating skillfully through the complexities and changes within the world of work. This means being open and having an understanding of what is going on, grasping the challenges in the world of work and adapting to them.

So, in addition to the everchanging and dated technical skills, recruiters need to be keen on assessing the soft skills necessary for the overall success of their candidates, such as their ability to adapt to change, their capacity for self-evaluation and their constant drive for improvement, openness to the diversity of people and working methods, and resilience in the face of uncertainty.

As such, considering professional experience alone is insufficient when it comes to predicting overall professional success. Instead, it should be used to identify the candidate’s soft skills, which they could apply and transfer to their new position. What's more, in this changing world where unconventional profiles are becoming the norm, a different approach to recruiting is emerging.

Helen Simard

Consultant psychologist (career guidance and psychometrics)

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