soft skills

Hiring: What’s an “Ideal Fit”?

By Kristen Harris

In hiring it’s important to remember people are not commodities, individuals are not interchangeable. Even with equal skills or experience, every person is unique, and so is every company and role. It’s important to find the right person for the right position– that’s an Ideal Fit.

Imagine this scenario: you’ve interviewed two candidates for a position on your team, equally qualified from a experience and skills set perspective.

Candidate A is an ambitious go-getter that wants to constantly improve things and often questions the status quo.

Candidate B is complacent, likes routine, and doesn’t question rules, challenge assumptions, or make a lot of suggestions.

So, who do you choose? Wait a minute...before you answer that, you should know more about the role.

It’s in a government agency, helping people fill out and file three different forms, using a fairly outdated computer system. This role serves the public, and the people being helped come from all walks of life; some have special needs and require a high level of patience. The role isn’t expected to change much, and there’s little opportunity for advancement, growth or development.

Now, which candidate would you choose? While they may be equally qualified on paper, you had the opportunity to get to know their personalities in your in-person interviews. Candidate A would be frustrated in this role, trying to improve things, questioning the rules, pushing for better technology, and hoping for advancement that never comes. For the same reasons, Candidate B could be an Ideal Fit for this role. They’re more comfortable accepting things as they are, working within a system, don’t mind doing the same thing repeatedly, and are very patient. They could find it rewarding to be the person who helps others navigate a bureaucratic process.

To find an Ideal Fit, it’s important to assess the traditional areas of skill set and experience, as well as soft skills and how they align with your culture.

A client recently said to me “...this resume looks fine...I mean, they seem to have the right experience, but that’s just on paper. I know you’ve met them, and there’s so much more to someone than what’s on their resume.”

Exactly. There’s so much more than what’s on paper— both a candidate’s resume and a company’s job description. To find an Ideal Fit for both sides, you have to dig deeper. You don’t just want to fill a void, you really want someone who is a good fit, and vice versa.

Before you start assessing candidates, answer these questions:

  • What’s the culture of your company or team?

  • What industry are you in, and how that does it affect your culture?

  • Who are your clients? What specific needs do they have or type of service do they expect?

  • Are you growing? If so, how quickly? How will that affect this role?

  • What soft skills are important to your team? What are your values?

  • What soft skills are important in this role? What makes other people in this role successful (or not)?

  • How much opportunity is there for growth or development in your company? In this specific role?

  • What’s your managerial style? What do you expect from people who report to you?

When you hire someone you’re not just filling an empty seat, you’re committing to them and they’re committing to you.

Knowing yourself and company better, what you really need, and what type of person would be successful in the role helps identify an Ideal Fit. Putting the right person together with the right company is critical for long-term success.

Survey Says: Soft Skills Matter to Employers

By Kristen Harris

We’ve been hearing a lot about the “skills gap” lately, where employers have a tough time finding qualified candidates even as a sizeable number of unemployed people struggle to find jobs. Now the debate has moved on to look at “hard” and “soft” skills.

Hard skills are the specific manual or cognitive skills you need to do the job.

They’re a measurable ability to perform the task at hand in an excellent manner. This is what most of us learn in post-secondary education or a training program, and throughout our career as we continue to do our work. Sometimes these skills are learned on the job, through an apprenticeship or internship. If you’re a graphic designer it means you know how to use the right software, understand design principles, have a good sense of color and proportion, and so on. A writer knows how to find the right words to express the message, can edit their writing, knows punctuation and grammar guidelines, and other related skills.

Soft skills are less tangible. They are personality traits that you exhibit, no matter what job you’re doing.

Although some employers use personality tests to identify traits and tendencies, soft skills are often hard to measure. They’re really about how you approach your work and, just like hard skills, they can be learned. These are not innate abilities that some people are born with. All of these skills can be practiced and improved.

In a debate over whether which kind of skills matter more the answer is both.

It can be tough to get an opportunity without education, training or experience in your chosen field. But it’s also tough to get a position, and even harder to keep it, without well-developed social and personal abilities. Sometimes soft skills are what encourage an employer to give you a chance when your hard skills are less developed.

In a recent CareerBuilder survey of hiring managers and human resources professionals, they found that 77% of employers believe soft skills are just as important as hard skills.(1) In fact, sometimes having the right soft skills will convince an employer to take a chance on someone who needs to grow and improve. Coming out of college, that’s where we all are; we have some knowledge but little to no practical experience. Soft skills, or our “attitude,” are often what convince that first employer to give us a chance.

According to the CareerBuilder survey, here are the Top 10 soft skills companies say they’re looking for when hiring:

  1. Strong work ethic

  2. Dependability

  3. Positive attitude

  4. Self-motivated

  5. Team-oriented

  6. Organization (can manage multiple priorities)

  7. Works well under pressure

  8. Effective communicator

  9. Flexibility

  10. Confidence

Wow, that sounds like the kind of person I’d want to work with! How about you? Could you improve in any of these areas? We all have room for growth and improvement. Pick one and see how much better you can get just by giving it a little extra focus. These skills help us get the job, and succeed in it every day.

(1) Overwhelming Majority of Companies Say Soft Skills Are Just as Important as Hard Skills, According to a New CareerBuilder Survey, April 10, 2014