Future-proof your organisation by hiring for soft skills 


In the midst of a national skills shortage, which is predicted to grow to 29 million skills in deficit by 2030, organisations are feeling the squeeze. While technical skills, knowledge and qualifications are essential drivers for your organisation’s success, soft skills are the currency of the future. 

Why? According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report, 92% of talent acquisition professionals state soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than hard skills. 89% stated when a new hire doesn’t work out, it’s due to a lack of critical soft skills. Two thirds of jobs created in the next ten years are expected to be strongly reliant on skills like communication and empathy.

But how do you determine the soft skills your organisation needs, and what’s the best way to hire for these skills when they’re notoriously difficult to assess? 

Here’s what you need to know about hiring for soft skills to ensure your organisation’s long-term success.  


Why soft skills are coming to the forefront in recruitment 

Hard skills have traditionally taken centre stage as organisations keep up with rapid technological change. In our increasingly digital and globalised working world, many organisations are outsourcing or automating these responsibilities. Because soft skills aren’t easy to automate, they’re now perceived as being of higher value.

Also, the half-life of hard skills is shrinking, but soft skills stay relevant. For example, a programming language may fall out of fashion; but creativity, adaptability and collaboration skills will always be valuable. 

While smart organisations have always prioritised hiring for soft skills, these skills have typically been undervalued because they’re difficult to accurately assess and measure. With better recruitment processes and assessment tools, however, it’s possible to solve these challenges.  


What are the best soft skills to assess for? 

There’s a range of valuable soft skills to recruit for, but some may be more critical to your organisation, industry and role types than others.

Generally speaking, however, recruiters view communication as the top-rated soft skill. It acts as an “umbrella”, covering a range of other important skills, such as speaking, active listening, presentation, customer relationship skills and more. It’s also the foundation for good working relationships and culture. 


Other top-rated soft skills include: 

  • emotional intelligence 
  • prioritisation
  • adaptability 
  • work ethic
  • teamwork
  • leadership qualities
  • time management
  • decision making
  • conflict resolution
  • critical thinking
  • networking
  • empathy
  • problem-solving


Interestingly, many organisations choose to hire candidates with desirable soft skills into flexible structures, instead of specific teams. (In an age of automation, where 25-46% of current work activities in Australia could be automated in the next decade, the role you hire into might not exist in a year.) Therefore, flexible, agile workers are highly desirable, as they’ll be able to upskill and move cross-functionally into new and emerging roles as your organisation responds to industry disruptions.

Read more: Internal mobility – Why upskilling works for attraction and retention. 

It’s valuable to have a range of skills in your organisation, so you may like to prioritise certain skills for different roles. For example, decision making skills are important for leaders, and great communication is important for client-facing roles. 

The simplest way to determine the soft skills your organisation requires is by performing a skills audit – just as you’d do for hard skills.  


Build soft skills assessments into your hiring process 

After you’ve determined the soft skills your organisation needs, implement a formal strategy and integrate it throughout your screening process. 

Use resumes, cover letters and answers to screening questions to gain insights into candidates’ communication, presentation and creative skills. Use behavioural testing, video interviews and other online tools to assess leadership, decision making, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. You may even like to use group interview settings to assess adaptability and collaboration skills. Reference checks can act as another final layer to confirm your shortlisted candidates’ soft skills. 

Be mindful your organisation and culture are unique, so give new starters time to apply and demonstrate soft skills within your organisational context. 

Hiring for soft skills is critical to future-proof your organisation for 2021 and beyond. While it requires a targeted approach, it doesn’t need to consume an unreasonable amount of time and resources. Determine the skills you require, ensure everyone involved in your hiring process understands your screening strategy and build these assessments into recruitment practices from the ground up.