Experience or Potential – Hiring for Soft Skills

When you’re building teams, you have an idea of the kind of people you want and a list of skills they can bring to the table. Oftentimes, recruiting teams focus on level of experience instead of level of skill. It’s important to remember that depending on your need at the time, experience might not always be the best thing to focus on.

We spoke to a former Department Manager about her experience when it came to building her team.

“I was thinking of how I worked with the recruiting team at my previous job. The recruiters would go through the stack of resumes and disqualify most because they didn’t have the experience in the job BUT I was hiring entry-level, part-time, hourly positions. No experience is really necessary. So I looked for qualities over experience.. Is this person trainable? Motivated? Available?”

All roles and experiences are different. That difference doesn’t stop at the number of years of experience. It means how you think about positioning, advertising, interviewing and hiring is different. Qualifying someone for an entry-level position vs. the c-suite requires a different approach. And when you attempt to use a one size fits all approach – 90% of the roles you fill, will be a struggle.

Are you hiring for skill, experience, or adaptability? Hiring the best candidate doesn’t always mean the person who is currently doing that job, just somewhere else. The right hire might not match your job requirements word-for-word (or skill for skill).

If you aren’t taking the time to adjust your approach, you may also, unintentionally, be introducing bias into your hiring process. We know that based on research women are less likely to apply for a job where they don’t meet the majority of the qualifications. These candidates are already weeding themselves out of applying, and by narrowing your candidate pool with strict experience or specific skill requirements, you shrink the pool of potential hires even further. This is where the skill of a good recruiter comes in. A good recruiter can see the potential outside of what’s on paper and use that to find the right candidate for the job.

“I once hired a person that had no customer service experience but on her resume she put that she volunteered at the animal shelter and ‘could clean dog kennels faster and better than anyone else’. I knew three things right away: she is motivated, wants to do a good job, and is not afraid of hard work. I gave her a chance and she turned out to be one of my best employees.”

When you look at many of the job ads out in the hiring wilderness today, it is easy to conclude that companies are hiring from a position of fear. The job descriptions read like legal documents and the candidates respond accordingly. Willingness to train a candidate with the right set of soft skills, who may not have all the hard skills for the job the day they start, used to be the norm. It’s only in the last ten years or so that fear of hiring the “wrong” candidate has created an environment where hiring managers demand the perfect candidate and recruiters eliminate really good people because they don’t check every box. Taking a chance on a good candidate is often a good bet.

With the pandemic and the rise of the #GreatResignation we saw a large number of people changing professions. Blue collar workers decided to upskill and start whitecollar jobs. Companies recognized that a hard working hourly worker is trainable and started pulling the hourly workforce into entry level salaried positions.

A candidate with five years of experience installing cabinets but they love building computers and learning new software as a hobby. Does that disqualify them from a role in an IT department? Or do you look past the standard resume components and zero in on that throw away section called ‘interests’. When was the last time you read a cover letter that helped bridge the gap? Will you take a risk on someone you can mold into a passionate employee with the right qualities – if not yet the right skills?

Aside from thinking outside of the box to get the right candidates into your roles, think outside the box on how to get those candidates to actually apply for your job. Candidate experience stems from life experience – and entry level candidates want EASY application experiences. 40 question applications after another set of login credentials is not EASY. Integrate an Easy Apply (like Indeed’s!) that encompasses a full application with screening and EEO questions, collects resumes and cover letters, and directs those applications right into your ATS. Make it easy for your next employees – while keeping the process consistent for your recruiters (and stay EEO compliant).

Give your candidates the experience they deserve! Get in touch to find out more.