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Soft Skills 101: Start Making Better Hires


Everyone is talking about skills- and competencies-based hiring. However, without an understanding of what soft skills are and why they’re important, organizations are in danger of falling into hiring habits based on an erroneous “one-size-fits-all” checklist. 

This can lead to a complete failure to attract and hire the best candidates for specific roles. So, what are soft skills and how can they be used to make better hires?

The Difference Between Soft Skills and Hard Skills

First, you need to be able to discern the difference between soft and hard skills, and how they affect work outcomes.






Computer Proficiency: Basic computer skills, including knowledge of operating systems, file management, and familiarity with common software applications.

Communication: The ability to convey information clearly and effectively, both verbally and in writing.


Data Analysis: The ability to collect, analyze, and interpret data to inform decision-making.

Teamwork: Collaborating with others, contributing to group efforts, and being an effective team player.


Digital Literacy: Competence in using digital tools, online platforms, and collaboration software.

Adaptability: Being open to change, learning new skills, and adjusting to evolving situations.


Project Management: Skills in planning, organizing, and executing projects efficiently.

Problem Solving: Analyzing situations, identifying challenges, and developing effective solutions.


Technical Writing: The ability to communicate technical information clearly and concisely.

Creativity: Thinking innovatively, generating new ideas, and finding novel approaches to tasks.


Programming and Coding: Depending on the field, knowledge of programming languages and coding skills can be highly beneficial.

Leadership: Inspiring and guiding others, taking initiative, and managing projects or teams.


Financial Literacy: Understanding financial principles, budgeting, and basic accounting.

Emotional Intelligence: Understanding and managing one's emotions and effectively relating to the emotions of others.


Foreign Language Proficiency: Depending on the job and industry, knowledge of a second language may be valuable.

Critical Thinking: Evaluating information, making informed decisions, and approaching issues analytically.


Statistical Analysis: Competency in statistical methods and tools for data analysis.

Conflict Resolution: Addressing and resolving conflicts in a constructive manner.


Presentation Skills: The ability to create and deliver engaging presentations to diverse audiences.

Time Management: Efficiently organizing and prioritizing tasks to meet deadlines.


"Hard Skills are soft (they change all the time,
are constantly being obsoleted, and are relatively easy to learn), and Soft Skills are hard (they are difficult to build,
critical, and take extreme effort to obtain)."

- Josh Bersin

Hard skills allow the employee to complete the nuts and bolts tasks of the job. Soft skills, however, often help the employee work effectively, such as being a part of a team and dealing with other people, including coworkers and customers. 

While hard skills are considered to be teachable (training will get a new employee up to par on working with Word or Excel, for example), soft skills are more innate, harder to teach and harder to spot in a potential candidate. 

How Can Soft Skills Impact New Hire’s / Employee’s Success?

Soft skills are critical for most new hires and employees to succeed. Without soft skills, it can be difficult for them to connect with and work with other team members, to take constructive criticism seriously, or to manage conflict in the workplace or with an upset customer. 

Here are some examples of how soft skills lead to success not just for employees but for the company:


Soft skills such as networking and relationship-building are crucial for career advancement. Building positive relationships with colleagues and superiors can open up opportunities for growth.


Soft skills related to stress management and resilience are important for handling pressure and maintaining mental well-being in a demanding work environment.


Soft skills like creativity are essential for driving innovation. Employees who can think outside the box contribute fresh ideas that can lead to improved processes or new products.

"85% of job success comes from having
well‐developed soft and people skills..."

- Research study at Harvard University in conjunction
with the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center


In a research study conducted by Harvard University in conjunction with the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center, it was found that 85% of job success comes from having well‐developed soft and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills).


Workers who have a firm grasp of critical soft skills can not only increase their own efficiency and productivity, but that of their coworkers. There’s no wonder that soft skills have become such a hot topic among recruiters and hiring managers. 

What Soft Skills Should You Care About? 

There’s no shortlist or one-size-fits-all list for soft skills. The soft skills you look for in a new hire should be selected specifically for how they relate to the role, existing team, manager, and type of work. 

According to Crosschq Data labs, here is a collection of soft skills that you should be using as key candidate quality indicators to evaluate all potential new hires’ value to your organization (select the ones pertinent to the role being hired for):

  • Requires very little direction: This is often a soft skill possessed by candidates described as "self-starters."
  • Willingness to go above and beyond for the job: Hiring candidates with this soft skill can help you gain employees with a strong work ethic.
  • Pays attention to detail: Candidates who have laser focus and a tendency to demand perfection from themselves and others can be great at quality control.
  • Gets the job done on schedule / time: When deadlines are a priority, you want workers with this soft skill.
  • Has high intelligence: Candidates with this soft skill are often described as being a "quick learner" or possessing a high level of intuition. 
  • Consistently delivers quality work: If you need to hire employees who don't need to be constantly redirected or micromanaged, this is a soft skill to seek.

Other descriptive soft skills that can increase a candidate's value to your company as a whole include:

  • Is enjoyable to work with 
  • Is generally flexible  
  • Takes feedback well  
  • Has great communication skills  
  • Displays a positive attitude  
  • Handles stress well  
  • Is consistently optimistic  


If you can identify the soft skills that best support the role and team you are hiring for, you can identify top candidates based on skills and competencies, not just their hard skills, job history, and education level. This approach leads to improved employee outcomes

Can You Interview to Uncover Soft Skills?

Historically, soft skills have been solely assessed during the interview process. This can make it hard to quantify a candidate’s true potential.

Interviewers can ask a candidate about their soft skills using hypothetical scenarios, but this isn’t the best way to really find out what their core competencies are when it comes to soft skills.

That’s because if you ask a candidate if they are a self-starter, they are likely to simply say yes, because they assume that’s what you’re looking for. Same for questions about their ability to “hit deadlines”, whether or not they are a “team player,” or if they possess “excellent time management skills.”

Interview observations are also subject to unconscious bias. The “chemistry” between interviewer and interviewee can cloud the issue, and again - all you have to go on is what the candidate tells you. 

Bottom line: interview scores are terrible at telling you who to hire, but somehow they are still often heavily weighted when it comes to making hiring decisions. The truth? If you're using interviews to assess soft skills and make recruitment decisions, you’re failing at hiring the best person for the job.

What about assessment tools? Tools that do “soft skills assessments” can be manipulated or deliver skewed results; they are also subject to candidate self-reporting bias and their ability to take the test, as well as the test’s ability to actually analyze a soft skill.

The bottom line is that verifying soft skills just isn’t easy: as Josh Bersin notes, “It’s the soft skills that are hard.” Josh doesn’t even call them soft skills: he considers them “Power Skills” because of their importance to candidate quality and post-hire performance.

Good News: There’s a Better Way to Measure Soft Skills

Measuring soft skills doesn’t have to be an “observation” guessing game. With the right skills verification tools and processes, you can gather high-value data on each candidate, and compare their soft skill scores without bias.

Crosschq is dedicated to making it easier to get started with soft skills verification and improve recruitment outcomes across your organization. Our 360 Reference Checking solution is designed to surface and accurately score soft skills for each candidate, using self assessments backed up by input for former coworkers and managers.

What Does Reference Checking Have to Do With Skills Verification?

One of the current challenges in hiring is attracting, identifying, and hiring the best candidate for the job with outdated tools and processes. Reference checking is a serious choke-point in the recruitment pipeline, taking days per candidate to complete and resulting in almost no usable data. It’s a “check-the-box” activity that brings little or no value to the hiring process.

Crosschq 360 streamlines the candidate experience and transforms reference checking, turning what used to be a meaningless, performative step into a high-value, interactive data-gathering mission. 

Instead of simply calling references provided on a candidate’s application, 360 allows you to create a customized survey designed to uncover soft skills and competencies and let the candidate showcase their strengths, delivering an engaged and positive candidate experience.

After the candidate performs their self assessment, the same exact survey is sent to their references to compete. Their peers and mentors from previous positions can score their soft skills and provide additional insights into the candidate’s core competencies, strengths, and weaknesses.

All candidates who are up for the role receive the same survey to complete and and share with their own references. Each candidate's scores are tallied and delivered in a comprehensive report that makes it easy to evaluate each candidate fairly and without bias. This data collection process provides consistency and unparalleled insights into each candidate’s potential value. 

The Importance of Soft Skills for Quality of Hire

If you’re dipping your toe into the Quality of Hire movement, you’re on the right track. Hiring for skills and competencies fits right into that maturity curve. With Crosschq, you can hire candidate who have the soft skills required to positively impact:

  • Team dynamics: Soft skills like communication and teamwork are essential for happy and productive team environments.
  • Problem solving: Adaptability and creativity are vital for successfully navigating challenges and adapting on the fly to achieve successful outcomes. 
  • Leadership potential: Candidates with high levels of overlapping soft skills may also possess leadership qualities, and can fill soft skills gaps in your organization.
  • Customer interactions: Employees with heightened empathy are more likely to be successful in hospitality driven roles.
  • Workplace culture: Soft skills make it easier for new hires to align with and enhance company culture; match culture statements to survey results to surface these candidates. 

Why Crosschq Is Your Best Solution for Soft Skills Hiring

Comparing candidate self assessments with assessments from their prior managers and peers can help you gauge your potential hires’ self awareness and highlight consistency in perceived strengths and weaknesses. 

Observing how a candidate’s self view aligns or contrasts with others can provide valuable insights into their professional development potential and ability to evolve. It can also shine light on blind spots and encourage growth plans to improve post-hire as part of ongoing employee L&D.

If you’re looking for a soft skills assessment and verification solution that also supports Quality of Hire and culture add, Crosschq 360 can help you make a great start. For more information and a free demonstration of 360’s robust reporting capabilities, contact our team today.

Katie Kennedy

by Katie Kennedy

Talent Consulting Lead

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