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Soft skills are the biggest predictor of job success -- and you won’t find them in a resume.


Meredith Stack


Judging a candidate based on their resume alone is akin to assuming a person’s Tinder profile is 100 percent accurate.

In both cases the “candidates” are crafting carefully worded summaries, highlighting their best features and using keywords to elicit a desired response. While some may be accurate, most are inflated, and about 85 percent of resumes (and 80 percent of Tinder profiles!) have a least a few outright lies.

Even if candidates are brutally honest, resumes don’t give you the information you need to effectively match candidates to open positions.

Sure they outline where candidates went to school, where they worked, and how well they can summarize past job responsibilities. But the true predictors of success can’t be found in a list of experiences. They are determined by the skills that candidate brings to the job.

Skills trump experience.

This is a realization that is keeping many leaders up at night. A 2018 survey from PwC found 38 percent of CEOs are “extremely concerned” about the availability of key skills as a threat to business growth.

Fears about skill gaps is causing debate about the best way to reskill workers for the workplace of the future. It is also is driving companies to invest millions of dollars in training academies and boot camps to upskill and reskill their people.

These training programs can be great if a company needs to teach employees ‘hard skills’, like the latest coding language or new applications for artificial intelligence. But teaching employees soft skills is more complicated.

The ability to solve problems, think critically, create, and lead can’t be taught in an online course or by watching a video. These skills are inherent to a person’s core capabilities. They are also among the top skills required for the future of work.

The World Economic Forum ranks problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and people management as the top four skills needed to succeed in the future of work.

These are also the top competencies that global executives now seek in new employees, according to a report from IBM. “Executives are now tasked with continuously innovating and succeeding in this constantly evolving landscape,” the authors write. “They recognize that navigating it requires individuals who can communicate effectively, apply problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to drive innovation using new technologies, and draw and act on insights from vast amounts of data.”

Define the skills that matter most to your culture.

Soft skills can – and should -- be honed through practice, stretch assignments and mentoring. However, if the candidates you hire don’t come with the basics, they will struggle to succeed and to fit into your corporate culture.

That not only sets them up failure, it can have a spiraling effect on team productivity and overall employee satisfaction. Almost half of CFOs say bad hiring decisions greatly affect team morale. They also note that managers spend about a fourth of their time coaching bad hires, which takes their time away from employees who deliver more value.

To avoid hiring candidates with a great resume but lousy soft skills (or “power skills” as Josh Bersin calls them), it’s time to rethink your vetting strategies. While resumes make a nice calling card, behavioral assessments that define candidates’ core skills will give you a lot more insight into who is most likely to succeed.

To make the best use of such assessments, start by assessing your current workforce to identify the combination of skills that result in high performers in every role. Then use those assessments to build a road map for choosing future employees. Replicating the skills of your best people in new hires ensures they will be a match for your culture and the position, giving you a head start in building a versatile workforce for the future.

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