In a recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 40 percent of business unit executives stated that candidates lack critical communication competencies; 39 percent stated that candidates were also deficient in critical evaluation/critical thinking skills and leadership and navigation. That is what is known as a leadership crisis.
When hiring managers ask probing questions that relate to your ability to communicate the value of your expertise, they are looking not only for communication and critical thinking skills, they are looking for evidence of leadership potential. It’s the “soft skills” portion of your responses that provide an inkling as to that potential. Teaching soft skills (problem solving, collaboration, organization, communication, delegation to name a few) not only is a daunting task, but also increasingly difficult to find among candidates because of the subjective nature and how these soft skill priorities and types vary across organizations and industries. Hiring managers (and HR in particular) must have a grasp of those soft skills that reinforce the company culture prior to conducting candidate interviews.
But there’s no question that a command of these soft skills helps companies development competitive advantages in the market – maybe even a market dominance.
So, here are some sample questions a hiring manager may pose to extract hints of the presence of soft skills – and leadership potential – in your response.
- “What is it that gets you up in the morning and inspires or motivates you to come to work every day?” Most of us have heard this one a few times, and I’ve asked it many times. Your response helps the hiring manager get a feel for your thoughts on collaborating with others or whether you’re more suited for a more task-oriented role. It’s another one of those questions designed to know a little more about who you are and what drives your ambition.
- “Tell me about a difficult project when you were tasked with not enough people/time/budget and how you executed the project…” Another popular hiring manager question designed to get a glimpse of your ability to organize, delegate, crisis manage, and juggle multiple priorities. If some approach you took didn’t work, provide a brief hindsight analysis as to why and what you should have done differently. It shows the hiring manager that you can close the loop.
- “Describe for me when you’re firing on all cylinders…what does that look like and how are you engaged in the job or task with/without a team?” Another question designed to get look at your “inner” workings that you consider important for personal on-the-job satisfaction either working solo or with others in a collaborative effort.
- “From your experience, what does a successful team look like? What does an unsuccessful team look like?” Again, this question helps hiring managers understand your approach to successful collaboration, delegation, project management, and communication by comparing and contrasting previous team involvement.
- “How would you rank these qualities in order of importance: communication, collaboration, delegation, critical thinking, and organization?” You may have a clue as to what the organization values by studying the job posting or company website as this question may be one designed to determine how well your list order coincides with the organization’s priorities.
Such questions help hiring managers identify soft skills gaps, and when a candidate is hired, contribute to shaping shaping the necessary training to close those gaps. Managers with strong soft skills help boost their team or department’s performance by as much as 30% because people feel their work is valued and rewarded, clarifies the sense of corporate culture standards, and provides an incentive for motivation., according to research by the Hay Group.
As one global business owner friend confided in me years ago, “I hire for attitude; I train for aptitude. It’s much easier than the other way around.”
What other soft skills do you feel are critical for leadership development? Contribute to the conversation.
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My name is Donn LeVie Jr. and I am The ONE Hire Authority. I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, Silver Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies: Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).
I lead career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.
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