How to Hire Leaders and Team Members Who Can Adapt to an Ever-Changing Workplace

workplace-leaderHard skills are no longer enough. Soft skill competence among your leaders and employees is becoming the key to differentiation. And that means hiring for soft skills is your new top priority when you bring in new employees.

Because of the myriad ways technology and globalization are changing the workplace, hiring people just based on specific skillsets required for the job is only a half measure. It doesn’t assure you of the adaptive, agile, creative, and emotionally intelligent workplace culture you need to keep competing.

Why Soft Skills Matter More

Hiring for soft skills is especially important in your leadership and product development teams. There just aren’t very many hard skills that will look like they do today 10 years from now.

                  See 4 Outdated ‘Hard-Skill Driven’ Management Styles

Just think of how many new technology platforms and apps come out every year. Let’s take CRMs as an example.

If you have a stack of resumes, and half of them say they are ‘proficient’ with the CRM your company currently uses, is that a point in favor for that half of candidates?

Maybe. Depends on their role.

But in all likelihood, it’s pretty low on the priority list. What’s more important is, can this person learn a CRM reasonably quickly? Do they understand the underlying goals of a CRM, and how to make the CRM work for the company’s advantage?

Those questions matter far more than if they’ve used the specific CRM you currently use. Because you probably won’t be using that one in ten years. And if you are, the CRM itself will probably have changed so much that your team will have to re-learn it anyway.


Now – multiply that one example across all departments, teams, and goals. The skills that matter much more are ones like these, from the World Economic Forum:

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Judgment and decision making
  8. Service orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive flexibility

One study found that leaders who operate using these kinds of soft skills increased their team’s performance by as much as 30%.


candidate-testingSo the question is – how do you hire for these skills? How do you put less emphasis on college degrees and subject expertise – things that certainly still matter – and more emphasis on soft skills that are certainly harder to hire for?

The same article linked above gives the answer:

“Testing is key. A number of tools are available to help employers gauge traits such as humility, empathy and compassion. Others measure emotional intelligence, interaction styles and problem-solving abilities… Analytics and testing will be important to hiring and developing growth.”

In other words – you need to assess the soft skills of your top candidates. Here’s your 5-step guide to prioritizing your hiring process for soft skills.


Soft Skills Hiring Guide – 5 Steps to Hiring for the Future

Hiring for most positions, even if you want to prioritize for soft skills, usually begins in the same place. A stack of resumes that no one wants to look at. Here’s how to get through it faster and find the people you really want to find.

1. Weed Out the Obvious Ones

Weeding out unqualified candidates is the first and easiest step.

If your job requires coding skills, don’t hire someone who can’t code in the languages you work with. If you need specific college degrees or certifications, don’t hire someone without them.

That’s the easy part. It’s one of the only truly useful items you’ll find on a resume.

2. Run Soft and Hard Skills Pre-Employment Testing

Once you’ve whittled down the list a bit, you’re ready to send them some tests. The value of high quality pre-testing is growing each year as more employers figure out that what’s on the resume just isn’t enough to make a good decision.

Good interview questions matter too – a lot. But interviews are by their very nature subjective, and even the most savvy hiring experts are still at risk of getting ‘won over’ by a candidate who gives an overly positive impression by standing out in some way.

Pre-testing is the single greatest tool at your disposal to reveal soft-skill strengths in your hiring pool.

Use pre-testing as an initial gauge for which candidates have the soft skills and aptitudes you want for your position. Then, take only the highest scoring candidates and move them to the next step.

3. Begin Soft Skill Assessment with Phone Interviews

How a person talks on the phone – regardless of what they say – says a lot about their ability to communicate.

Looking at that list of ten soft skills up above, in one phone interview you can get a sense of a person’s ability to think critically, be creative, and coordinate with others. You’ll also get a strong sense of their service orientation, and will touch on nearly all ten of those skills to some degree.

You’ll also pick up on their active listening skills, adaptability to change, focus, and resilience.

Develop a set of questions that will uncover more of these soft skills, and make them a priority of this first call.

What you learn from these calls, combined with the pre-testing data, will be enough to help choose your finalists for the in-person interviews.

4. Create a Workshop-Based Interview Process

In your interviews, give them problems to solve. Give them scenarios that reveal how a person thinks on their feet and works with others. Find out their values, why they come to work, what excites them about it.

Use questions like these, from author and speaker Lisa Bodell:

Q: What two things could our competitors do to make our product irrelevant?

Q: When you have a new idea but aren’t sure of the outcome, what do you do?

The first one is great because it also shows how well they’ve prepared for the interview. Do they even know what your product is? But the question’s main value is that it forces the person to think about how the product can be improved, which will also gets them thinking about solutions.

Then you can follow up with questions about how they might implement those changes, and learn more about their creativity and problem solving.

5. Ask References about Soft Skills, Not Results

Results depend on a team of people in almost all workplaces. Your main goal in talking to references is to find out more about the candidate’s soft skill proficiency. What do other co-workers and old managers say about them? How well do they work with others? Describe their work ethic.

This information could be what clinches your decision to hire one person over another.

Soft Skills Hiring – On Your Own or With Help?

Getting this wrong can mean the difference between a company that grows and surpasses its goals, and one that shrinks back and loses ground. Do you want to be Home Depot or Sears?

Getting it right takes a lot of time, planning, and effort.

Doing it alone, especially for smaller and mid-size businesses, IT firms, medical clinics, biotech companies, and other niches makes it harder to stay focused on the many other tasks you have to do.

PainLess Hire conducts steps 1, 2, 3, and 5 on your behalf. And we’ll advise you on step 4 to help you get the most out of your interviews.

When you work with us, you save countless hours on tedious tasks like combing resumes and studying pre-testing data.

We do all that for you, and once you’ve made your final selection from your in-person interviews, we even call their references so you don’t have to. If you have specific questions you want us to ask, we’ll ask them.

But our whole approach to hiring is founded on the importance of soft skills, and high-performing pre-testing is the essential tool that empowers you to hire the best person every time.

The result of using our hiring approach is that your final rounds of in-person interviews are filled only with highly qualified candidates. No duds.

You have an actual choice to make. And it’s a hard one.

This situation empowers you to be able to do what this article is all about – hire someone who has the strongest soft skills to thrive in your open position.


Here’s what George Saunders, the CFO of Matossian Eye Associates in Hopewell, New Jersey, said after using our hiring system:

We used PainLess Hire recently to find a new Practice Administrator for our large and busy practice. We were impressed that PainLess Hire assessed candidates with three different tests and conducted comprehensive phone interviews before presenting them to us. One of the tests was assessing candidates’ leadership skills and another assessed their aptitude level, all crucial to being a successful manager.

The assessments were very important for us, because we had hired people in the past who on paper, had the skills needed to do the job, but turned out not to be good leaders.

We were presented with only top candidates who scored high on their assessments, and those who did not do well were not presented to us. This method really helped us have the confidence that the people we were going to spend time interviewing had met a high standard and been actively screened by professionals.

Soft skills made the difference for George’s decision to hire his new administrator.

If you want hiring outcomes like this, without spending nearly as much time as you would on your own, then reach out to us and get your initial hiring quote.

Our hiring service even comes with a guarantee. We’re so confident in our process, that if your new hire doesn’t work out for at least five months, we will find you their replacement at no extra charge.

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