With remote work stretching on, it raises the question of which skill sets are more valuable in an online context than others. Soft skills are the non-technical abilities that govern how you work and relate to others. Unlike hard skills that are far easier to measure and quantify, soft skills are more intangible which makes them tricky to accurately get a sense of in an interview. On a remote team, however, they will greatly impact how a new hire fits in and what sort of relationships they can develop with their colleagues. If you're currently hiring new remote team members, consider whether they have the key soft skills that are essential for productive remote work.
What soft skills should you look for in a candidate?
The skills HR professionals and hiring managers are looking for right now aren't necessarily what they would have been hiring for a year ago before Covid-19. After months of upheaval, some soft skills are becoming more useful to have then others. Before you start your next round of interviews, consider if your candidates have the following abilities to help make your hiring decision more successful.
Communication: Probably the most important soft skill for any worker these days is the ability to communicate. We can't rely on face-to-face interactions any more which makes having excellent verbal and written communications skills essential. Candidates will need to be comfortable connecting in a virtual environment and able to use a variety of text and video tools, such as Zoom or Slack, to work together. A candidate with strong communication skills should always be a priority when hiring remotely.
Adaptability: 2020 has thrown a lot our way so far and odds are there's more to come before life goes back to normal. Having the ability to adapt to change and navigate uncertainty is a key skill for today's remote employees. Look for candidates who are flexible and have experience pivoting when they need to. Ask potential hires how they've dealt with change, particularly in the last few months, and how they've been able to adapt in the past when projects weren't going as planned.
Self-awareness: Candidate's who understand their own abilities and motivations are worth their weight in gold. Once they're hired, you want employees who have a good idea of what drives them forward so they can keep themselves on track when working alone. Self-aware candidates also find it easier to fit into an existing team and form interpersonal relationships with their colleagues since understanding themselves helps them better understand others.
Time-management: These days most employees are working on their own without anyone else structuring their day. In a remote world it's important to be able to effectively manage your time in order to stay on track. Maintaining a routine at home takes discipline so probe how a candidate has been organizing their days and what their approach to meeting deadlines is. You want to hire someone that will eventually be able to manage themselves without direct or daily supervision.
Teamwork: Does your candidate play well with others? Remote teams have to rely on their team members in ways in-person ones don't. You can't walk over to someone's desk for an impromptu chat these days. Instead you have to trust your team to work together and do their parts on their own. Candidates with strong teamwork skills are able to listen and compromise when needed. They value collaboration and cooperation and understand that a team can achieve more together than apart.
Organization: Is your candidate able to stay on top of their responsibilities and keep themselves organized? Much like time-management, this skill points to how effective the new hire will be at self-management. If a candidate has already been working-from-home, ask them about their set up. How have their organized their workspace and are they able to focus on new tasks as they're required? Do details fall through the cracks or are they able to keep track of all their projects?
Positivity: Let's face it, this year has been a challenge for most people. In the face of so much adversity, it can be hard to stay optimistic. Having a positive attitude at work, however, is a boon to any team. Candidates who look on the bright side, aren't deterred by set backs, and can rise above disappointments have a stabilizing effect on the groups they're a part of. Attitude can be infectious, in either a positive or negative way, so hiring optimists can help improve overall morale.
Resourcefulness: Does your candidate find a way, even when the odds are against them? In an era where people are working in closets and on balconies, the ability to be resourceful comes in handy. These candidates keep pushing forward and are good at problem-solving and creative thinking. They can look at a situation and identify potential solutions to address whatever problem has arisen. As the world of work continues to shift, the ability to always find a path through any challenge is one that will continue to be in high demand.
The power of soft skills
It's easy to get caught up talking about hard skills in an interview and forget about the softer ones, but soft skills have never been more vital than they are right now. As teams continue working remotely, isolation and burnout are on the rise. Stacking your team with employees that have the ability to help each other and form strong bonds better positions you to weather disruption and improve team morale. But identifying a candidate's soft skills before they're hired isn't always an easy prospect. Pre-employment tests such as personality assessments can be useful when probing a candidate's skill set and determining if there's alignment between a candidate and a role. They can help uncover what essential soft skills a candidate will bring with them to a team which, combined with a structured interview approach and behavioural based questions, can improve the overall effectiveness of your interviews. So next time you need to hire, consider more than just the technical skills of a role. Remote work is different from in-person life and so are the skills needed to succeed.