Kathy Van Pelt is the Vice President of Marketing at MATRIX. Over the past 20+ years, Kathy has held numerous marketing leadership positions for companies in the IT solutions and staffing industries. She is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate who loves to spend her free time with her family, traveling and playing tennis.
Soft Skills Emphasized Now More than Ever by Hiring Managers
Well, we have reached the point where business leaders are admitting that soft skills are as important – if not more important – than hard skills.
Wait a minute! Are you kidding? For years, the emphasis has been focused primarily on the technical skills of the candidates. So what if they can’t communicate effectively...or are not team players...we need heads-down programmers who can crank out high-quality code.
Yes and no. In today’s Agile-driven collaborative environments, that philosophy is no longer strictly true. In fact, soft skills such as customer-centricity, communication, and passion for learning are highly prized. Today’s tech environment requires talent to work collaboratively across the business — meaning they need to have people skills too.
Finding these well-rounded digital professionals is not always easy. After all, speech and English composition are not required computer engineering courses. Recent data backs this up. A LinkedIn report conducted with consulting firm Capgemini found that more employers say their organization lacks soft skills (nearly 60 percent) than hard digital skills (51 percent).
How do you measure attitude and heart?
But when interviewing candidates, exactly how do you measure fuzzy, soft skill characteristics such as attitude and heart?
This topic was explored in a recent panel discussion hosted by MATRIX, where Atlanta IT leaders came together to talk about creative ways to attract and retain talent in today's tight labor market. You can watch a webinar recording of this same topic here.
“Yes, we want the skillset, yes we want the talent, but what we’re really looking for is heart. Talent is not the top priority. You need team players and good diversity to get problems solved,” said one local technology director on the panel.
Hiring managers should interview for culture first. “Get to know your candidates as people. Don’t ask what’s on their resume. Ask ‘tell us about yourselves, why do you want to work here, etc.’ Let those candid questions guide the interview.”
Think out of the box
Some recruiters have employed quirkier methods to gauge soft skills. MATRIX Recruiter Andi Cook set up a “trash pick-up test” to determine the social consciousness of candidates for one job she was hiring for. “I placed a piece of trash on the floor near the chairs in our lobby and asked the receptionist to tell me which candidates stopped to pick up the piece of trash. I hired the only candidate that picked it up. That one small effort she made without even thinking about it told me that she was the team player I needed. I knew she was someone who would pitch in and help wherever she was needed,” Cook said.
The panel also suggested companies invest in their own culture—the system of values, beliefs, and behaviors that shape how real work gets done—to help them compete with other companies. In an era where bad news travels instantaneously and an organization’s culture is both transparent and directly tied to its employment brand, great companies consciously cultivate and manage their culture.
Want to see hard results? Focus on soft skills.