The Hard Case of Soft Skills in Personnel Selection

Oct 1, 2016

One of the most frustrating arguments I keep having with some new clients is about the critical importance of evaluating candidates’ soft skills (personality-related attributes) – even more so than focusing on their hard skills (technical or administrative competences).

In my 27-year career as a professional recruiter, I have observed that the number one mistake most employers make in selecting personnel is: they neglect soft skills and put too much emphasis on hard ones.

Let us take a closer look at this delicate issue!

A very interesting report published by suggests that if you neglect the soft side of candidates and rely primarily on their hard skills, you double or triple the odds of experiencing a hire failure. Specifically, they provided evidence of WHY the emotional or soft side of people is a more leading criterion of success or failure on the job. (1)

The report refers to Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and former New York Times reporter who published the international best-seller, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (Bantam Books, 1995). In it, he brought together years of research to show that emotional intelligence – which can loosely be described as a person’s ability to manage his or herself and relate to other people, matters twice as much as IQ or technical skills in job success.

Per the report:

  • Experience on 181 jobs at 121 companies worldwide showed that two out of three abilities vital for success were emotional competencies such as trustworthiness, adaptability and a talent for collaboration.
  • According to a study of what corporations seek when they hire MBAs, the three most desired capabilities are communication skills, interpersonal skills and initiative — all of which are elements of emotional intelligence.
  • Emotional intelligence matters in surprising places such as computer programming, where the top 10% of performers exceeded average performers in producing effective programs by 320%, and the superstars at the 1% level produced an amazing 1,272% more than average. Assessments of these top performers revealed that they were better at such things as teamwork, staying late to finish a project and sharing shortcuts with coworkers. In short, the best performers didn’t compete they collaborated.
  • Studies of close to 500 organizations worldwide indicate that people who score highest on EQ measures rise to the top of corporations. Among other things, these “star employees” possess more interpersonal skills and confidence than “regular employees” who receive less favorable performance reviews.
  • A study of 1,171 U.S. Air Force recruiters showing that the best performing recruiters were those who scored high on assertiveness, empathy, interpersonal relations, problem solving and optimism.
  • A study of 1,000 sales personnel from a large U.S.-based international company demonstrating that the characteristics most predictive of sales success were assertiveness, empathy, happiness, emotional self-awareness and problem-solving skills. Nothing else, including gender, education, geographic area, age or hours worked came as close to predicting success as did these emotional competencies.

Free Recru-Tec Test by No Fail Hiring

There is plenty of evidence in favor of soft skills. I have never really grasped why many small business owners stick to picking only applicant who show evidence of technical competences, despite the fact that these candidates usually cost more money to the organization – with NO guarantee of better performance.

If you find a very competent employee who also displays amazing soft skills, you have hit the jackpot. But if you have to choose between the two criteria, I always suggest that you give priority to soft skills. You can always improve technical skills but you can’t really change or improve willingness.

How do you evaluate soft skills?

This is where the Recru-Tec Test comes in. This unique pre-hire assessment measures 20 job-related soft skills. Its precision is over 90%. It provides you with vital information on a candidate, such as:

  • Honesty,
  • Predictability,
  • Team spirit,
  • Flexibility,
  • Assertiveness,
  • Communication skills,
  • Problem-solving aptitudes,
  • Performance mindset,
  • Etc,

If you have never used the Recru-Tec Test, log in on and try it for free. And do not fall in the trap of “great credentials and proven expertise.” At the end of the day, we need to remember that over 78% of terminations are due to lack of soft skills – not lack of hard ones!

Best Success,

Patrick Valtin
Best-Selling Author of :No-Fail Hiring 2.0”

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