Hard skills VS soft skills: How to find the right balance in recruitment

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Relevant recruitment is always a mix of hard and soft skills. In an ever-changing world, soft skills are all the more essential. Should they, however, dethrone the more technical skills? Nothing is less certain.

Hard skills VS soft skills, definition

By “hard skills” we mean the technical or academic knowledge acquired by a candidate through his/her school, university or professional background. These skills can be easily demonstrated, through diplomas, certifications, portfolios, etc. In other words, it is the candidate’s know-how.

Some examples of hard skills: mastery of a foreign language, computer software, programming languages, etc.

Soft skills” are human qualities linked to the personality of the candidate. In other words, it is a question of his or her interpersonal skills.

A few examples of soft skills: demonstration of emotional or behavioral intelligence, empathy, listening skills, leadership skills, etc.

What’s the difference?

Beyond their distinctive features, the nuance between hard skills and soft skills is quite subtle. Indeed, because they are tangible and concrete skills, hard skills are within everyone’s reach. To acquire them, it is generally sufficient to follow the appropriate training and to acquire experience in the field in question.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are more innate and develop over the course of a lifetime. Working effectively in a team, organizing your time well and being a good manager cannot be learned from books. Some people have natural abilities, others develop these skills throughout their career… In any case, these are habits that are cultivated over time.

Soft skills: why are they valuable?

  • Soft skills are not acquired overnight. Because they are more innate than just learned, soft skills are rarer and therefore valuable. While it may be easy to train an employee in certain technical skills, developing soft skills is much more difficult.
  • Also, sofy skills are synonymous with success. According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence at Work, managers with good emotional intelligence are more likely to see their company succeed than others. According to the psychologist, leading companies such as Amazon, Xerox or Tesla have built their entire internal structure around soft skills.
  • And no, internal mobility is possible without soft skills, no matter how talented your employee is. Without good listening and communication skills, a critical or team spirit, empathy, this talent will never be a good manager.
  • Moreover, according to a LinkedIn survey (2016) conducted on 291 recruiters, 58% of them considered that the lack of soft skills among candidates was a hindrance to the productivity of their company.
  • Soft skills are more necessary than ever in times of crisis. The current period is pushing us into our retrenchment. In order to overcome it, employees need to demonstrate a strong capacity to adapt, creativity, resistance to stress…
  • In a world where innovation is constant, some hard skills quickly become obsolete in the face of technological change. The fields of web and data development, for example, are constantly renewing themselves and require constant relearning. To stay up to date, a Data Analyst must have, beyond his technical skills, a real curiosity and a strong interest in his field. He must constantly nourish himself and learn from his peers at conferences, meetings, and so on.
  • According to a LinkedIn study (2018), the 4 most sought-after soft skills are leadership, communication, team spirit and good time management.

Hard skills VS soft skills: a necessary complementarity

According to a Wall Street Journal survey of 900 senior executives in 2015, 92% of them believed that soft skills were as important as hard skills. 89% of them, however, admitted having difficulty recruiting candidates with the soft skills they were looking for.

This is the whole problem with soft skills: by definition, they are not palpable. It can be difficult to detect them in candidates, especially in a context as specific as a job interview!

Moreover, while soft skills are indispensable, they are primarily used to highlight know-how. The most popular soft skills, such as leadership or team spirit, are worthless if they are not accompanied by solid skills. Because an employee with excellent interpersonal skills is useless if he does not have the technical skills required for his job.

But the reverse is also true. An excellent employee with rare skills is not really usable if he works very poorly in a team or does not easily let himself be managed. Poor interpersonal skills can even ruin a company’s culture.

In reality, soft skills and hard skills are just as important, and there is no real magic dosage to be found. Every company needs specific skills and a good state of mind. Depending on the position, hard skills may or may not be a priority. What is certain is that you can’t do without the know-how and the know-how.

In conclusion

A good recruitment process must, throughout the application process, emphasize both the candidate’s hard and soft skills. These are two crucial characteristics that are as necessary as they are complementary.

Today, various HR tools (such as AssessFirst, Centraltest or Goshaba) make it possible to assess a candidate’s potential, with particular emphasis on soft skills. Our recruitment software Jobaffinity gives you access to all these HR applications.

In a future article, we will share with you our advice on how to detect the soft skills of candidates in a job interview.

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