Beyond CVs: How to Assess Soft Skills in Graduate Candidates

In today’s highly competitive job market, assessing candidates goes beyond just looking at their qualifications and experience. While technical skills and academic achievements matter, soft skills play a vital role in determining an individual’s success in the workplace.

This is especially true when it comes to graduate candidates who may have limited work experience but are eager to learn and grow. Let’s explore the significance of assessing soft skills in graduate candidates and look at effective strategies for doing so.

The Value of Soft Skills

Soft skills, often referred to as interpersonal or people skills, encompass a wide range of attributes that relate to how individuals interact with others and approach their work. These skills include:

  • communication
  • teamwork
  • problem-solving
  • adaptability
  • leadership
  • time management

For graduate candidates, who might not have extensive professional experience, these skills can be critical indicators of their potential for growth and success within your company.

1. Conduct Behavioural Interviews

Behavioural interviews are a tried-and-tested method for evaluating a candidate’s soft skills. In these interviews, ask candidates to describe past situations where they’ve had to use specific soft skills. For instance, you could ask questions like, “Can you share an example of a time when you had to work as part of a team to achieve a common goal?” Their responses will provide insights into their ability to collaborate, communicate, and handle challenges.

2. Role-specific Scenarios

To assess soft skills, present candidates with hypothetical scenarios that they may encounter in their prospective role. This could include dealing with a dissatisfied customer, resolving a team conflict, or managing a tight deadline. Ask them how they would approach these situations, which can help you gauge their problem-solving, adaptability, and communication skills.

3. Simulated Work Tasks

Incorporate practical exercises or tasks into your interview process. This approach allows candidates to demonstrate their soft skills in a realistic setting. For instance, you might ask them to analyse a case study or prepare a presentation. These tasks can showcase their communication, critical thinking, and teamwork abilities.

4. Reference Checks

Don’t underestimate the value of reference checks. Contacting a candidate’s previous employers or university tutors can provide valuable insights into their soft skills. Ask for examples of how the candidate exhibited key qualities in past roles, as this can help verify the authenticity of their claims during the interview.

5. Assessment Tools

Leverage assessment tools designed to measure soft skills. These tools can provide standardised and quantifiable data on a candidate’s strengths and areas for improvement in various soft skill areas. While these assessments should be just one part of your evaluation process, they can offer an objective perspective.

6. Panel Interviews

Consider conducting interviews with multiple team members or department heads. A panel interview allows you to assess how a candidate interacts with different personalities and authority figures, providing valuable insights into their communication and adaptability skills.

Bringing it all together

In today’s job market, evaluating soft skills in graduate candidates is a necessity. These skills are often the differentiators that make a candidate successful in their role and an asset to your company. By implementing a combination of behavioural interviews, role-specific scenarios, practical exercises, reference checks, assessment tools, and panel interviews, you can better gauge a graduate candidate’s soft skills and make informed hiring decisions. Remember, while hard skills might get a candidate through the door, it’s their soft skills that will determine their success and longevity within your organisation.

Are you looking to hire new graduates for your business? Get in touch with us today to see how we can help.

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