If you're asking, "How can I find the best talent pool for my company?," look for applicants who have demonstrated their proficiency in "soft skills". Soft skills, aka social skills, determine how well an individual works with others. Soft skills include organization, communication, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability and discipline. You can assess applicants' strengths through calling their references, asking them to rate themselves, having them perform exercises to showcase their abilities, and asking interview questions about instances in which they have demonstrated the skill.
Think of combining several of these methods to get a bigger picture of how an applicant performs under pressure. It is also good to determine how important these skills are in relation to the job the individual must perform. For example, if an applicant will be an independent contractor, it may not be necessary for them to showcase their ability to work as a member of a team. It may be more important for you to assess whether he or she can do the task for which they are being hired.
An applicant's organizational skills reveals how prepared they are to perform the job. It also indicates how easily they share resources, meet deadlines and relate results to other projects. Organization intersects with the soft skill of emotional judgment. An applicant who has common sense and knows how to accurately assess a situation will be able to determine how to sort and rank items to be addressed.
Interpersonal communication is key to the completion of many projects. An applicant who's willing to ask people who are more experienced with the work how to accomplish tasks will likely prove a valued team member. Look for an applicant who knows how to soothe hurt feelings, help others cooperate, build bridges and ask for help.
Working as a member of a team requires that an individual does their fair share, helps others who are struggling, resolves conflicts that lead to inefficiency and takes initiative. It is not necessary to pick an applicant who is a leader. Think of finding an applicant who demonstrates they are committed to the team's success.
A problem-solving applicant is one who comes up with creative and usable ideas to accomplish company goals. Look for an applicant who takes the initiative to craft several plans, especially if one is risky. You may have to tell an applicant that his solution will not work. Look for the person who says, "That's OK. I am open to trying something else."
Adaptability refers to an individual's potential to deal well with changing circumstances. Sometimes a team misses its deadline or a project runs out of money. Ask the applicant what they will do if things don't work out as expected. Look for an applicant who admits her or his frustration, determines next steps and indicates they are optimistic about the new plan.
Finishing projects and remaining with a company require that an individual be ready to take on obstacles. New hires usually have to overcome the obstacles of unfamiliarity, new work relationships and, sometimes, new physical surroundings. In order to succeed, they typically set a schedule and goals for themselves. Ask applicants how they have kept up their motivation and also how they have motivated others. Look for applicants who share that they do not have trouble getting started on something new.
As you interview applicants, you may discover more soft skills that you value. Your company leadership may also share their ideas. Creating a working list of desirable soft skills and questioning how to evaluate applicants will likely prove useful. The process will teach you what is hard to uncover through interviews, reference checks and exercises. It will also teach you what qualities are readily apparent and how to rate them.