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Solid Soft Skills Are Hard Find, Unless You Know How To Look

I’ve been traveling across the state listening to groups of IT employers talk about the challenges they face hiring the technical talent they need. With 4 stops down and 3 to go, this is what I’ve been hearing. The top challenge is the lack of so-called “soft-skills” in existing workers and job candidates.  Ironic, in that soft-skills (i.e. Personal Effectiveness, Academic Competencies, Workplace Competencies) are at the very foundation of IT competency.

Last week at the MHTA Spring Conference I had a chance to listen in as some of our state’s largest employers discussed their challenges and I heard a different approach to the problem than I have been hearing elsewhere.  The larger employers mentioned using formal assessments, and, extensive structured interview techniques, to determine the strength of a candidate’s foundational (or soft) skills. Of the 30 or so smaller employers we’ve heard from, only one has mentioned using a formal “personality assessment” as a part of their hiring process.

I get the sense that smaller firms often rely on the impressions and experience of the hiring manager. If the candidate interviews well, builds some rapport, and has a demonstrated passion for technology (like fooling around with Visual Studio Express in their spare time) that’s enough evidence of soft skills. This process works—candidates who make it through seem to make good employees. The question is, does this informal approach screen out too many candidates who have the technical chops (and many other work related competencies) but break out in a flop sweat during an interview?

A former boss once cautioned me against the tendency to hire people who seem to be just like us. There are a variety of soft skills needed in the workplace, a well-designed and structured hiring process can help you uncover all the skills you need.

Let me know what you think.

Remember, I’m not Minnesota Nice.

You don’t need to be either.

Just have point and spell well, we’re talking about soft skills after all.

 

-Tom

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