In today’s rapidly evolving and interconnected world, it has become increasingly evident that technical skills alone are not enough for employees to thrive in the workplace. These so-called hard skills are extremely valuable, but they can also be learned. Interpersonal skills and people skills are harder to train for. This is why hiring managers are increasingly valuing soft skills over those hard skills.

Soft skills, which encompass those interpersonal or people skills, are now recognized as crucial attributes that enhance an individual’s effectiveness in any role. They can mark someone out as a good fit; they can help job-seekers standout amongst the talent they compete against. They are important traits that employers are privileging more and more.

In this article, we will explore the concept of soft skills, provide examples of essential soft skills, and offer guidance to recruiters on how to identify these skills during the recruitment process.

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills encompass a broad range of personal attributes, behaviours, and qualities that enable individuals to work effectively with others, adapt to change, and succeed in diverse professional settings. Unlike hard or technical skills, which are directly related to specific tasks or jobs, soft skills are transferable and applicable to various roles and industries.

In Job ads, you will frequently see requirements such as ‘communication skills’, or ‘problem solving’ or decision making’ – these are all soft skills.

These types of skills are a combination of a person’s character and personality, as well as their ability to interact and communicate with people, work alongside others, think critically and perform well.

Examples of Essential Soft Skills

As we have discussed, soft skills are in-demand for most employers. These skills often go hand-in-hand with job-specific requirements, but more than that, they are transferable skills that prove that a candidate is a well-rounded individual. They demonstrate that a potential hire can handle the day-to-day stresses and responsibilities of a modern workplace.

Let’s look at some examples of these skills and why they are so crucial in a modern work environment.

Communication Skills

Effective communication involves both the ability to express oneself clearly and the capacity to actively listen to others. This includes verbal and written communication, as well as non-verbal cues such as body language and empathy. Strong communicators foster better collaboration, resolve conflicts, and build better relationships.

More than that, poor communication is frequently a reason why projects and initiatives go off track or experience problems en route to completion. Good communication can remove many of the types of hurdles that can frequently derail teams. That is what makes this skill so crucial.

Teamwork and Collaboration

The ability to work well in teams and integrate with colleagues from diverse backgrounds is vital in today’s collaborative work environments. Employees with strong teamwork skills contribute to a positive and productive team culture, share responsibilities, and leverage collective knowledge to achieve common goals.

Fostering strong relationships with colleagues tends to make teams perform better. A company culture of teamwork and cooperation ensures that people feel proud to work for your organisation.

People working well together means a higher level of employee experience, which has shown to increase both productivity and profitability.

Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking

Employees who can approach problems analytically, think creatively, and generate innovative solutions are highly valued. Problem-solving skills enable individuals to adapt to challenges, make informed decisions, and continuously improve processes.

People who are able to think critically are not only more able to analyse problems and make more informed decisions, but they are also more likely to bring fresh ideas that can challenge and change the way your organisation approaches finding solutions.

Adaptability and Flexibility

The modern workplace is characterized by constant change and unpredictability. Individuals who possess adaptability and flexibility skills can adjust to new circumstances, embrace new technologies, and effectively manage ambiguity. They are resilient and open to learning and growth.


Leadership extends beyond managerial positions. It involves taking initiative, motivating others, and inspiring positive change. Effective leaders possess strong communication skills, empathy, and the ability to delegate tasks and empower their teams.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence encompasses self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and social skills. Individuals with high emotional intelligence can understand and manage their own emotions, as well as navigate relationships and understand the emotions of others. This skill is crucial for building trust, resolving conflicts, and fostering a positive work environment.

How to Identify Soft Skills during the Recruitment Process

Assessing and identifying soft skills during recruitment is not easy – these are qualities that can be hard to measure as they are generally intangible.

Beyond that, job-seekers will usually try and present themselves in the most positive and flattering light during interviews and the hiring process, so evaluating what skills they have and whether they are a good fit for your organisation is going to be something you’ll need to work to uncover.

Its best to consider these types of skills as not just job-related, but imperative for your new hire to possess. This means defining and mapping out a soft skills list from the very beginning of the process and presenting the need for these skills at every step of your candidate evaluation.

Here’s how to recruit someone with a soft skillset:

Start with the Job Description

Craft clear and comprehensive job descriptions that include both technical and soft skill requirements. Highlight desired soft skills and provide specific examples of how they are relevant to the role. This will attract candidates who possess the desired attributes.

Structure Your Interview Questions

Include behavioural questions that prompt candidates to provide specific examples of how they have demonstrated certain soft skills in previous work experiences. Ask candidates to describe challenging situations and how they resolved conflicts or collaborated with others. Look for evidence of effective communication, problem-solving, teamwork, and adaptability.

Check References for Soft Skills Examples

Contact references provided by candidates and inquire about their soft skills. Ask open-ended questions to gain insights into the candidate’s interpersonal skills, ability to work in teams, and overall work ethic.

Role-play Situations that Require Soft Skills

Incorporate role-playing exercises or simulations into the interview process to assess candidates’ soft skills in action. This can involve scenarios that test their communication, problem-solving, or leadership abilities.

Assess and Test Candidates on their Soft Skills

Utilize personality assessments or psychometric tests to gauge a candidate’s soft skills. These assessments provide valuable insights into an individual’s communication style, emotional intelligence, and behavioural tendencies.

Hiring for Soft Skills

Soft skills are no longer considered optional attributes but rather essential qualities that contribute to an individual’s professional success. In today’s fast-paced and collaborative work environments, employees need to possess a strong foundation of soft skills to excel in their roles and contribute to the overall success of the organization.

Recruiters play a vital role in identifying and assessing soft skills during the recruitment process. By incorporating specific strategies such as clear job descriptions, structured interviews, reference checks, role-playing exercises, and assessments, recruiters can gain valuable insights into a candidate’s soft skill capabilities.

It is important to remember that soft skills can be developed and improved over time through training, experience, and self-awareness. Therefore, recruiters should look for candidates who not only possess a baseline of essential soft skills but also demonstrate a willingness to learn and grow in these areas.

Soft skills are the glue that holds together a highly functional and productive workforce. While technical skills are necessary for performing specific tasks, it is the soft skills that foster effective communication, collaboration, problem-solving, adaptability, leadership, and emotional intelligence.

By recognizing the importance of soft skills and incorporating them into the recruitment process, organizations can build teams that are not only highly skilled but also capable of thriving in dynamic and challenging environments.


About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.