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How Hiring for Soft Skills Positively Impacts your Bottom Line

According to one study, nearly half of all new hires fail. 46%, to be exact. And it’s not because they lack the technical knowledge, education, or training to perform their roles. Managers reported that, while these individuals had all the right qualifications on paper, they lacked key interpersonal skills, or soft skills, necessary to succeed. Skills like the ability to accept constructive feedback or communicate effectively with team members.

Consider that the average cost per hire for a new employee is over $4,000. With that information, it’s clear that smart hiring means hiring for soft skills. However, understanding which interpersonal skills matter most and knowing how to identify them in candidates can be trickier than you might expect.

Soft skills are the personality traits, habits, and characteristics that relate to how an employee interacts with others in a work environment, prioritizes tasks, or solves problems. They are also sometimes called ‘interpersonal’ or ‘noncognitive’ skills. Don’t let the name fool you, though – soft skills have a definite impact on your organization’s bottom line. A team of MIT-trained engineers will struggle to meet deadlines without solid time-management skills. Similarly, your most talented sales rep may find management challenging if she’s never had to develop conflict-resolution techniques. 

In addition to saving the costs of re-recruiting, hiring for noncognitive skills boosts your organization’s bottom line. One recent study found that increasing workers’ time management, problem-solving, and communication with specialized training led to productivity gains of 12%. Other analysis suggests that an employee with soft skills generates around $63,500 more in revenue than an employee with no special interpersonal abilities.    

At first glance, it’s easy to make a case for why just about any interpersonal skill is indispensable to almost every role in your organization. Solid communication skills add value no matter what job function you’re hiring for, right? But smart hiring for these noncognitive skills requires thinking about the precise nature of the position you’re hoping to fill. For example, adaptability and grit might be nice to have in a junior account manager working from the office, but they’re mission-critical for a junior accountant working remotely in a distributed team.

AI can also help. Cangrade’s Success Model processes data on your current employees’ to determine the personality traits and characteristics necessary to excel in specific roles. This gives you the information you need to ensure each of your hires relies on data.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but the best tool for assessing an applicant’s non-technical abilities is probably a machine. Research has shown that hiring managers struggle to accurately evaluate soft skills. Also, many of the traditional interview techniques may not protect against unconscious bias. AI-driven tools like Cangrade’s Pre-Hire Assessments, on the other hand, rely on psychometric data and empirical analysis of your existing workforce when hiring for soft skills.

At the interview stage, unstructured, behavioral questions can provide insight into a potential applicant’s soft skills. However, they are also susceptible to unconscious bias. Consider using structured interview questions to hone in on precisely the skills you’ve identified as crucial. (Not sure how to do that? Our Structured Interview Guides can help.)

Hiring for soft skills may seem daunting. But it makes a big difference for your organization’s continued success and your employees’ performance. Machine learning can provide valuable insights into which interpersonal skills matter most in a specific role. AI can also help you design a recruitment strategy focused on fairly and accurately assessing candidates. 

Learn more about how our AI-driven Success Models help you identify the specific soft skills required for success in your organization.