Butler County Times Gazette
  • Eric P. Bloom: 7 soft skills to look for when interviewing candidates

    • email print
  • One of the most difficult and important decisions made by managers is deciding which person to hire. The conventional wisdom related to candidate selection, rightly so, suggests that while technical competency is the key that opens the interview door, it’s organizational fit that should ultimately convert a candidate into an employee.
    Expanding on this concept of the importance of organizational fit, the following list of soft skill traits can be used to further analyze a candidate’s personal fit for a specific job. For example, if a job requires making client presentations, does the candidate have positive body language, appropriate professional demeanor and strong presentation skills?
    Ability to listen:
    During the interview, does the candidate really understand your questions and comments before answering. If yes, this illustrates that the person is interested in your thoughts and comments, not just in pushing their own agenda. It also allows the person to take better instruction because they will have a deeper understanding of your needs before doing the task.
    Ask well-formed questions:
    The ability to ask well-formed questions is crucial within certain professions, such as a salesperson or business analyst, because you must first acquire information about the client/customer before acting. As a salesperson, you must understand the customer’s needs before suggesting potential products and services. A business analyst must understand the needs of his/her client in order to design the best possible system or process.
    Negotiation:
    Watching how someone negotiates can tell you an enormous amount about their personality. For example, if the person is a forceful negotiator, he/she most likely has a strong personality and high self-confidence. If the person is very meek and is not willing to state his/her wants and needs, the person is most likely not assertive by nature.
    Positive body language:
    Body language is a whole science unto itself. If you have not studied body language, it would be well worth your while to either read up on the topic or watch a few well-designed YouTube videos. In short, people’s posture, the way they hold their hands, and many other factors can give you an enormous amount of information on the candidate’s confidence, ability to handle stressful situations and other personality factors.
    Telephone rapport:
    If the job the candidate will be performing requires him/her to speak with clients and/or others on the telephone, you should consider having a phone-based interview with the person to assess his/her communication effectiveness over the phone. This may seem a little over-the-top if you will also be meeting the person face-to-face, but why leave anything to chance.
    Courteousness:
    After interviewing a candidate, it’s very worthwhile to see if they were nice to everyone in the office, not just those having input into the hiring decision. If the person is nice to you and obnoxious to the office receptionist, chances are they were on their best behavior when meeting with you, but their real personality showed through when speaking to others that he/she deemed unimportant to them personally.
    Page 2 of 2 - Natural networker:
    Gaining an understanding of how a candidate is conducting his/her job search can help you evaluate his/her natural tendencies as a professional networker. For example, if you ask the candidate how he/she heard about the job opening and the person answers in the following way, then you can surmise that he/she can work with others to get things done.
    “I decided to limit my job search to ten specific companies that my friends and professional contacts said are great long term employers. Then, I used a combination of LinkedIn and my personal contacts to find people currently working here at Manager Mechanics. From this investigation, I realized that a former coworker of mine, Joe Smith, was working here. Joe and I had lunch last week and he told me about this great job opportunity.”
    An additional advantage of the above candidate reply is that you can use his friend Joe, a former co-worker, as an internal job reference.
    The primary advice and takeaways from today’s column is to know that:
    While technical competency is the key that opens the interview door, it’s organizational fit that should ultimately convert a candidate into an employee.
    Expanding on the concept of organizational fit, the soft skill traits listed in the column can be used to further analyze a candidate’s personal fit for a specific job.
    Until next time, work hard, work smart, manage well and continue to build your professional brand.
    Eric P. Bloom is the president and founder of Manager Mechanics LLC, a management training company specializing in information technology leadership and is the governing organization of the ITMLP and ITMLE certifications. He is also a keynote speaker, nationally syndicated columnist, and author of the books “The CIO’s Guide to Staff Needs, Growth, and Productivity,” “Your IT Career: Get Noticed, Get Promoted, and Build Your Professional Brand” and “52 Great Management Tips.” Contact him at eric@ManagerMechanics.com, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom, or visit www.ManagerMechanics.com.
      • calendar