Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: Getting Hired

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: Getting Hired

When small and medium-sized business owners interview prospective employees, there are many things they should be on the lookout for. Relevant job skills developed through education or training are, of course, of extreme importance. Just as crucial, however, are the so-called soft skills, which include confidence, self-motivation and various other personal traits that will help an employee to thrive in the competitive modern workplace. For an interviewer, it’s important to get a handle on both hard and soft skills in a potential employee.

Why Hard Skills are Often Overrated

Perhaps the most common mistake employers make when bringing on new employees is focusing almost exclusively on their hard skills. A small web development company, for example, might hire a candidate solely on the basis of that person having a good background in various programming languages and a knowledge of front-end and back-end development. Though these are, of course, very useful skills, hiring someone by looking only at his or her hard skills is a poor idea.

It is possible for even the person with the best hard skills to lack soft skills altogether. The most skilled employee in the world is useless if he or she is not driven to succeed. In many cases, employers regret hiring a highly-skilled employee who later turns out to be either lazy or unable to self-supervise.

How Interviewers Can Bring Out Both Skill Sets

Getting a handle on hard skills in an interview situation is relatively easy. In most cases, applicants will highlight their hard skills and any relevant education they may have in their resumes. In tech-sector jobs, it is also common for employers to conduct what is known as a whiteboard interview, where an applicant is given a problem to solve and asked to come up with a solution on the spot.

Finding out about a candidate’s soft skills, however, takes a different approach. Because they are more personal traits and characteristics than demonstrable abilities, learning about a person’s soft skills requires getting to know a bit about them as a person. Confidence is usually the easiest soft skill to gauge, as an interviewer will usually get a sense of whether an interviewee is confident and comfortable in the interview situation. Communication abilities will also come out naturally during an interview. In order to determine how motivated a candidate is, ask about personal projects he or she may have been involved in. The more information you can get about the potential employee’s overall personality and temperament, the better an idea of his or her soft skills you will be able to develop.

Building Hard and Soft Skills

Like anything else, both hard and soft skills can be learned with practice. Hard skills are typically the easiest to learn. This is because, while they can be complicated, they rely on very rigid and uniform rules and methods that apply in all situations. Someone trying to learn data science skills, for example, can apply the same criteria to evaluating many different kinds of data. Hard skills will be usually learned in colleges or vocational training schools, but they can also be learned on the job. People who want to learn new hard skills can take advantage of many different resources, including continuing education, online courses and professional workshops.

Soft skills can be learned, but they are much harder to pick up because they require an intuitive and situation-based sense of how to go about something. Learning to communicate more effectively, for example, requires a person to develop a sense of how to talk to another person in order to get the most positive response. Because not all people communicate in the same manner, this skill is much harder than learning a consistent set of rules that apply across the board. With persistence, however, anyone can develop soft skills. Often, soft skills are developed more on the job than in training courses. One of the best ways for candidates or employees to gain new soft skills is to work with an experienced mentor.

If your business is looking to bring on new employees, remember to look for a balance of both hard and soft skills. Candidates who have both will greatly outperform candidates who are strong in one field but weak in the other. Evaluate your current interview process to see if it is equipped to look for both hard and soft skills, and consider changing it if it seems too geared toward the hard skills.

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