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Hiring Soft Skills for Attracting and Interviewing A-Players

Hiring soft skills are vital in attracting and interviewing candidates to spot the A-players. You need to apply soft skills like communication, flexibility, and relationship development to hire quickly and accurately. Hiring soft skills spells the difference between mediocre hires who waste your resources and getting the best of the best on the job straight away.

Here are the steps to take when hiring for soft skills that you can apply at each step of the process to attract and interview the best candidates for any role.

Hiring for Soft Skills to Attract the Best Candidates

When you create a description for a role, you need to be very clear and concise about what you want and don’t want in a candidate. These are the core soft skills to start with because you can only attract A-players if your description disqualifies mediocre candidates. This part of the process also requires keen decision-making skills.

Your Candidate Description

Start by describing the perfect candidate in as much detail as you can. Just go through everything you can think of, and sort it out later.

Candidate Soft Skills

Focus on the personal qualities of the person rather than their hard skills or experience – these latter qualities are easier to add in later.

If you find yourself stuck, just think about the qualities that you and your managers value in a person in general, in the work environment, and for the specific role you are looking to fill. 

These will guide you to creating your candidate avatar. Use the soft skills of clear feedback and critical thinking and observation to analyze what qualities make for a successful candidate in that specific role.

Don’t Rush It

Go over your description at least a few times in the course of a week to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Get input from department heads if applicable – the person who works directly with hires knows best what qualities the ideal hire should – and should not! – have.

It’s vital to get clear on the don’ts as well as the do’s – but you want to translate the don’ts to positives so you can keep the description positive. 

For example, if you don’t want someone who’s late for meetings, write that as “punctual”, or if you don’t want a team member who doesn’t engage, write that as “team player” or “collaborative”.

Organize Your Thoughts

When you’re satisfied, separate the hard skills from personal qualities – the candidates’ soft skills. These details will go in the opening paragraphs of your role description. The soft skills must come first because these are the key to making good hires – not their hard skills.

Now separate the hard skills from the tasks. The hard skills will follow under a bulleted “Skills” section and the tasks will be described next under a numbered list of “Requirements”.

Pro Tip:  You have to include exactly what tasks the perfect candidate must know how to perform at a high level. Then, differentiate these from the tasks that you do not need them to be experts at. This will help you to avoid disqualifying a candidate with excellent personal attributes just because they aren’t good at using a certain tool, for example. Remember, it’s a lot easier to have a hire learn a few hard skills than to teach them soft skills.

Your Role Description

The best role descriptions are presented in a way that can be easily digested. This requires writing skills that combine critical and logical thinking, communication, and design.

Format Your Description

You can find a lot of examples of formatted descriptions just by doing a quick Google search if you need a more detailed point of reference. Look for formatting that you find easy to go through. Formatting alone, however, is not enough to attract the A-players.

Market to A-Players

If you’re not good at marketing copy, I suggest that you hire an experienced writer to craft your easy-to-read role description. Yes, you need to market to the A-players if you want to attract them to the role you are trying to fill. A-players never want mediocre work. They will always find great clients and projects. And yes, you need to make it easy for them because they will not waste their precious time deciphering a complex bunch of sentences. You would expect the same from candidates when they send you portfolios and cover letters, right?

Pro Tip:  It’s not all about the experience-money match for A-players. They look for authentic clients who are an excellent match for the way they work.

Market to your ideal candidate, but always be ethical – honest and transparent. If they find things to be different after a week on the job, they will not be happy and you will experience high turnover. This wastes a lot of time posting descriptions and interviewing and onboarding one candidate after another. And you’ll end up with someone mediocre because A-players don’t settle.

The key is presenting the information in a way that elicits the response that you want from the candidates that you want. Marketing is, after all, attracting who you want and repelling who you don’t want. If you want to learn how to do that in more detail, check out the Outsource School courses or set up a free consultation with me.

Hiring for Soft Skills When Interviewing A-Players

The two most important steps of any hiring process are pre-vetting and interviewing. The key is to do them from the standpoint of soft skills.

Candidate Pre-Vetting

The best candidates will be proactive, providing you with information about themselves and their skills and experience. This may be on their website or in their first communication with you. Take note of that information and use your critical thinking skills to pre-vet each candidate against your description. Then you can rank the applicants and interview the best matches first.

Interviewing the Best

The interview is your chance to get to know the candidate a bit and to verify their skills. The focus here should still be on their personal attributes. Definitely ask about their hard skills and experience to check their confidence levels (which can clue you in on whether or not they’re being honest). But you won’t know for sure until they’re on the job. Their attitude, however, as well as their ethics, etc., will show through more clearly during this conversation.

Ask for feedback throughout this process. Listen intently to all the candidate’s responses and questions – they give clues to the candidate’s state of mind and what’s important to them. Make sure you’re on the same page there, too.

Relationship Building

First, you must build rapport with the candidate. The easier it is, the better – this tells you that they are a fit for your personality and working style. 

If you will not be working with the person directly, make sure that whoever will be takes the lead during the interview. You will need to practice critical observation throughout the interview to pick up on subtle cues.

Brand Values

Second, you will need to once again effectively communicate your brand to each interviewee. You gave them a glimpse of it when you described the personal qualities of your ideal candidate, and now you need to drive it home. 

The person who will be an A-player for you is the one who is in line with your values and vision. Make sure you get on the same page on that before you proceed. If it’s not a match, you should move on, and don’t forget to update your description to be clearer on this point so you get better matches the next time around!

Role and Expectations

Third, if all goes well up to this point, it’s time to go over the role once again. This is to see if the candidate needs more clarity on anything. This is also your chance to add more detail if you need to. Go over your expectations for the role as well, and in detail. This includes things like work times and measurable output as well as experience and skills. Don’t leave anything to chance!

The best candidates will always have good questions to ask about some part or other of the skills or requirements if they’re not clearly defined. They may ask things that never crossed your mind because they are looking at the role from a different perspective. Stay keen and look for any indicators of a good or bad match.

More Relationship Building

Finally, end on a high note. You want to reinforce your rapport with the candidate, whether or not you will hire them. Respect is highly valued among A-players, and it can only help to be nice. Use your networking skills here. The candidate may be able to refer you to a better fit if they’re not the one, and that gives you a better chance of success.

Hiring the Best

This is where your negotiation skills come into play. You’ll need them to evaluate the candidate’s capabilities versus their rate and your budget, and come to an agreement with them. Whether this is for a one-time project or long-term work, you need to get on the same page before you get them officially on board.

Final Thoughts

Hiring soft skills can make or break your hiring experience. They are what help you take purposeful action at every step of the process and get the measurable results that you need to make the right decision.

More than matching a candidate to your requirements, hiring an A-player means knowing the primary qualities of an A-player. No matter what role you are filling, make sure that you are looking for a person who values and pursues positivity, work ethic, motivation, constant development, collaboration, tolerance, flexibility, problem-solving, and resourcefulness. And, most importantly, make sure that you and your team live and work by these same principles. That’s how you attract A-players and keep them onboard.

About the Author:

Julia is a career freelancer and agency owner turned coach for those seeking abundance and victorious living. A professional teacher and decades-long lover of the art of words on paper and the stage, she loves sharing actionable advice on life-changing topics. When she’s not helping freelancers and other small business owners grow, you can find her sharing lots of laughs over little crazy things.

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