The hard fact of “soft skills” in hiring decisions

In a recent meeting with a client, they were lamenting about a poor employee.  My client was very frustrated about an employee they hired a few months ago and stated “she just isn’t working out”.  She has the experience and the general job knowledge, but it’s been a real challenge. What should I do?”

The question is, should she wait and see if it gets better or let them go now? In our conversation, it became clear that the issue is not what she knows, it’s how she’s doing the job.  This employee lacks initiative, good judgement, and can’t solve problems independently.  These are examples of behavioral traits (or competencies), often called “soft skills”.  And there is nothing soft about them.  I don’t believe they can be taught to an adult employee, any more than a sense of humor can be taught.  You either have them or you don’t.  Most jobs require some or all of these behavioral traits to varying degrees.  Unfortunately it is often difficult to assess these traits in one or two interviews without some specialized testing, assessments, skilled interviewing, or other means. There are interview questions which can help to identify them, but very often, you don’t realize you’ve made a bad hiring decision until weeks later.

My short answer is to let her go, it won’t get better.  Most unfortunate for all parties.  This was not the first poor hiring decision made, and unless they make some changes, it won’t be the last.

For future hiring decisions, I suggested to my client they utilize a performance profile benchmarking assessment tool to determine what behavioral traits are found in their most successful employees in that job. This helps to create a better job profile which not only identifies the role, responsibilities and education, experience, and skills needed to perform the job, but describes those behavioral traits which are essential to success in that job.

A poor hiring decision is very costly and this is a modest investment in time and money to increase the likelihood of a good employee and solid performer.

We offer an array of assessments and surveys to help measure factors that contribute to your organization’s success.  Contact us to learn how we can help you.


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