Soft Focus: People Skills Do Matter


We’re often told there are two types of people in the world – creative right-brainers and analytical left-brainers; communicators and numbers-crunchers; poets and “quants”.

The truth is, dependent on the role they are being considered for, successful employees must exhibit varying degrees of both sets of skills, and recruiters, interviewers, and hiring managers must be able to identify those abilities.

It is important to note that even for roles where there is no customer interaction, it is rare to have a role where the employee does not need to interact with other members of your organization. So while the degree of social skills required to successful do their job  will be different, it is still imperative to be able to quantify where your potential employee falls so you can effectively evaluate if they are able to make a positive impact within your team.

Here’s how to determine if the next candidate you interview possesses the “soft” skills needed  to become a valuable and marketable member of your team:


  • First and foremost, it is important to determine how much or how  little customer interaction will this person be required to have? If he will be interacting with your customers, obviously it is much more important to ensure that you are hiring someone that is comfortable in social interactions.  Is he customer-oriented? Your employees’ professional competence is the most critical criteria for capturing new business, but their courtesy, can-do attitudes, and go-the-extra-mile mindsets will determine whether you keep those hard-won clients. Ask the candidate about dealing with problems on a project. Does he deflect responsibility or does he work to make things right, no matter the cause? A service orientation extends beyond paying customers to include supervisors, secretaries, the media, and even competitors.


  • Is she comfortable speaking to a variety of audiences? Most CPAs can confidently discuss depreciation with their colleagues, but is your candidate equally adept at explaining the concept to the local Rotary Club? A reporter for the local weekly? The office intern? Can she articulate her points on television? Before a legislative committee? In writing and graphically, as well as orally?


  • Can he work with others? Compatibility with coworkers and “fit” within the organization’s culture will determine a new employee’s success as much as his certifications and college grade-point average. Assess the applicant’s ability to adapt to changing work conditions and roles. In interviews, ask about group projects he has led or been a part of, or about how he satisfied a difficult client.


The best way to determine soft skills is to utilize Behavioral Interviewing techniques when vetting your candidates.

Soft skills often mark the difference between a worker and an asset. People who possess soft skills in addition to technical and professional know-how develop into leaders who solve problems, keep morale high, motivate co-workers, and effect positive change.