Why are employability skills important?
Looking for the perfect candidate for your vacancy isn't as simple as finding the application with the best experience and technical credentials. In fact, LinkedIn's Global Talent Trends report uncovered 92% of talent professionals reported soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than hard skills.
Soft skills have long been disregarded when it comes to good business, but these are the raw talents employees need to enable them to take on any role. Finding a candidate with the soft skills we outline in this article will provide you with an employee that's innovative, collaborative and a highly valuable team member.
Hiring for skills over experience (CVs Vs Skill Tests)
So now we're clear on the benefit of hiring with a focus on employability skills over experience, how do you do that?
Soft skills are rarely listed on CVs - as many as 54% of employees don't add them to their CV. Even if the remaining 46% of your applicants had listed their employability skills, how could you know for certain and at what level of skill they possess.
Employability skills are best demonstrated, rather than listed. It's effective and fair to use unbiased skills tests to find the most adept candidates amongst your talent pool, not to mention the time saved by using them.
15 Essential Employee Skills To Look For When Hiring
When hiring top talent, there are 15 key skills that you should assess that would enable candidates to assimilate to any role, regardless of their experience.
1. Problem-solving skills
Problem-solving applies to people scenarios and technical challenges. An individual with the ability to problem-solve is able to meet a challenging situation with calmness and manage it with confidence. This might include decision making, creative thinking, and solution-finding along with communication to navigate the challenge.
A great way to identify the ability to problem-solve in a prospective employee is to offer them a real-world problem to solve. This could be done by using a variety of problem-solving tests like spatial or abstract reasoning assessments or casually within an interview.
You could ask: 'In your first week as team leader, there is a conflict between two employees in your team, they refuse to be in the office together. What do you do?'
Resilience is the ability to 'bounce back' and overcome adversity. There will always be challenges in the workplace, but finding staff members able to experience setbacks and move forward positively is invaluable. This should not be confused with being unphased by challenges - but characterised by being able to learn from them.
There are several questions you can ask candidates at the interview level to get a better understanding of their resilience, for example:
'Describe a time when things didn't go to plan. What did you do and what did you learn from it?'
Alternatively, you might consider employee assessment testing to determine knowledge, personality, or work style.
3. Attention to detail
Hiring a team with strong attention to detail means errors are less frequent and the output becomes more accurate - and who doesn't want that?
You could test for attention to detail with aptitude tests such as an error checking test as well as careful scrutiny of a candidate's application. Have they submitted a well structured and grammatically correct resume? Or, have they acknowledged all aspects required in their application?
Employees at all levels benefit from having leadership skills. They offer the ability to motivate teams and colleagues, give and receive constructive feedback and see that projects are completed promptly.
The best way to identify candidates with strong leadership skills is to deploy leadership skills tests during recruitment. These will measure a candidate's ability to lead by posing several realistic workplace scenario questions and gathering how they would act.
You might also consider using a group activity or task during an in-person or virtual assessment day. Which individuals show good leadership characteristics and take lead?
5. Situational judgement
Good situational judgement is the ability to act fairly, rationally and decisively in a given situation. Employees with this skill aren't just logical in their approach but also empathic.
Being able to see all sides of a situation is an impactful skill for employees to have and can be tested for when hiring by understanding a candidate's direct experience in this, asking questions such as:
'How would you handle being faced with an aggressive customer?'
Alternatively, if this is a core skill for the vacancy, you could carry out a thorough online SJT to discover those possessing the strongest aptitude early in the recruitment process.
It's important for staff to understand each other's circumstances with compassion and identify when and where they may be able to offer help. For example, having empathic people on a team can help to identify the signs of burnout in others.
Having an empathic team will create a safe working environment for all and is likely to encourage long tenure. Look out for candidates that have a collaborative nature, enjoy being part of a team and demonstrate active listening within their interview, empathic employees are likely to show this.
7. Strong interpersonal skills
It's been found that 66% of skill-shortage vacancies are at least partially caused by a lack of people and personal skills. This makes it clear being likeable and able to work well as part of a team is crucial for retaining staff.
How can you avoid hiring someone lacking this skill? There are online interpersonal skills tests that assess a candidate's ability to effectively communicate, interact, and work with others.
At a minimum, you should assess how a candidate interacts throughout the interview and ask yourself, will they be a good team fit? Would I be comfortable leaving them to interact with clients?
As a leader, being proactive earns the trust and respect of the team. Displaying this as a junior team member shows motivation and dedication to the role. This skill details a strong work ethic and commitment to continuous improvement - something to benefit the company, team and individual equally.
An insightful question to ask any candidate would be:
'What would you do in your first month of working here?'
This would highlight their interest in getting to know as much about the opportunities at hand and to understand where they may make the most impact.
9. Software skills
All jobs now require a basic level of computer skills such as Microsoft Office software proficiency and possibly CRM, analytics or engineering software depending on the role.
If the role requires particular software usage, we would recommend testing for this specifically to measure a candidate's aptitude. However, if basic computer skills are required, having submitted a well-formatted resume and online application should demonstrate the baseline requirements.
10. Team orientated
Being a team player is essential to contributing to a positive working environment. This is less about candidates showing how they lead teams, but how they take instruction and contribute to a common goal.
Good team members are respectful and collaborative by nature. A measure of candidates' teamwork is how willing to accept joint responsibility for both successes and failures they are. You can get an insight into this using a teamwork test or asking:
'What role have you played in team situations?'
Adaptable employees may otherwise be recognised as 'forward-thinking' or 'lifelong learners'. They possess the inclination to take the unknown in their stride with optimism and are able to move with the times enthusiastically.
As the modern workplace becomes increasingly fast-paced and technology-driven, it's essential to have adaptable employees. Test this at the interview stage by asking hypothetical scenario questions such as:
'How do you stay motivated when taking on a new project or task?'
What else comes to mind when you think of accountability? Discipline? Ownership? Integrity? Employees with a strong sense of accountability will make for productive and autonomous team members that won't require micro-management. This also nurtures a trustworthy team.
You can measure prospective employees' level of accountability by deploying accountability skills tests to your talent pool - they will give you decisive comparative data to examine before hiring.
13. Communication skills
Being able to communicate effectively within the workplace enables employees, their colleagues, and clients alike to feel at ease when dealing with each other. It helps to avoid error through misunderstanding and creates confidence and trust in that individual.
Whilst aptitude tests such as verbal reasoning can identify excellent communicators, speaking to candidates through several mediums will demonstrate their level of communication. Carry out voice calls, video calls, in-person and email conversations.
How they show up in each of these spaces should tell you everything you need to know about a prospective employee's communication skills.
14. Time management
Having poor time management will delay work, cause tension and disputes amongst staff as well as impact the business's overall performance.
Understanding how prospective employees like to manage their calendar, whether they do time audits or are familiar with time management systems such as The Eisenhower Matrix will all give insight into how structured they are. Alternatively, you can assess them using an online time management test.
Positivity is contagious, so hiring optimistic employees will help to lift team morale. Colleagues will support each other, inspiring positive change, increasing profitability, lowering staff turnover and improving the collective ability to overcome challenges.
Although positivity isn't particularly measurable, you should be able to get a sense of whether a candidate has an optimistic or pessimistic personality based on how they communicate in interviews.
During highly pressured tasks such as an assessment day group activity - who stays positive when the activity is not going well? Who supports other team members and boosts morale after a task is lost.
How do you test essential employability skills when hiring?
You want to find the strongest, most employable candidate within your talent pool, but, you've received hundreds of applications. It would take months to ask each person enough questions at the interview stage to understand if they possess these core employability skills.
Administering pre-employment online soft skills tests and aptitude tests is an efficient and unbiased method of measuring where your candidates sit against a benchmark. Anyone that doesn't meet your expectations can be removed from the talent pool and the remaining candidates can proceed to interviews.