LinkedIn's CEO is right about soft skills – but how do you measure them?

LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky is right about soft skills | Sapia Ai recruitment software

Recruiters: The corporate hiring machine is evolving. Can you feel it?

As recently as a year ago, many top companies still selected candidates based on the most misleading of heuristics: The school they attended.

Harvard? Right this way! Community college? No thanks, we don’t take your kind around here.

This Pearson Hardman-style hiring strategy may have ‘worked’ in the past. Not any more, for two reasons: A) the talent isn’t out there, and B) everyday people expect a better standard of hiring fairness. They know that opportunity isn’t distributed equally, and that elite colleges are more a proxy for privilege than actual performance potential.

(Funny that it took a labor shortage to show companies that potential can come from anywhere. Psychologists and sociologists have known it, and have been saying it, for decades.)

Regardless, you’ve got LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky telling Fortune that its company is favouring soft skills over college degrees, because such a practice creates a ‘much more efficient, equitable labor market, which then creates better opportunities for all’. He’s right about this approach. Even if you take away the benefits to diversity and inclusion, it makes sense purely mathematically: Now your hiring pool has increased from a few hundred thousand candidates to, at the very least, millions.

Soft skills are more useful, and fairer, than resumes

Resumes foster bias. Despite this fact, we insist on using them. Why? Because, until now, there hasn’t been a compelling reason not to. You could screen, interview, hire, and get warm bodies in seats with relative ease. Business could go on. Consequently, bias became a can that could be continually kicked down the road. Not anymore, for reasons discussed above.

The same is true for hire quality. Google ‘how to measure quality of hire’ and you’ll get a million different answers. Some advocate the for speed- or time-to-productivity approach; others say it’s about measuring ‘culture fit’. One or both of those might be true, but that’s beside the point: hire quality is nebulous not by its nature, but because the inputs (i.e. resumes) are messing with the outcomes.

This is why measuring soft skills is so important. Here’s an example:

We know that conscientiousness (that is, the propensity for someone work diligently and systematically on tasks) is a good predictor of on-the-job success. We also know that structured interviews are the best explainer (at 26%) of employee performance (versus previous job experience, which explains just 3%).

We might construct a valid candidate interviewing and vetting process based on these two facts alone. Fundamentally, we know that if A) we look for conscientiousness, and B) we do it in a structured, fair, repeatable way, we’ll get good candidates. Hire quality will take care of itself. Good inputs, good outcomes. Voila.

(It’s not quite that simple, but you get the point: There are reliable, proven ways to ensure validity, and the two examples cited above are very real and useable.)

Instead we rely on unstructured interviews, unruly hiring managers, and resumes – none of which can determine how hard-working a candidate is. Bad inputs that create bad outcomes. Consequently, we regularly examine hire quality and wonder why we struggle to measure it, or worse, connect it to the wider financial outcomes of our business.

So how do you measure soft skills?

Let’s keep this as simple as possible.

  1. Use structured interviews. Aside from the long-standing research above, an Aptitude Research report from this year found that structured interviews are 52% more likely to result in good hire quality.
  2. Ask questions based on known personality traits and behaviors, because these reliably point to high job performance. You want to know things like conscientiousness, empathy, emotionality, and so on.

Our free job interview rubric contains more than 20 questions designed by our psychologists to help you uncover hire quality. Get it here, use it, and let us know how you found it.

Your companion in accurate measurement of soft skills

There are millions of ways to assess for soft skills in interviews, just as there are millions of ways to calculate quality of hire. You may get some success by going it alone, but humans are, historically speaking, terrible at accurately assessing personality traits (and therefore, hire quality).

Our Ai Smart Interviewer does this very thing. Using deep, always-evolving personality science, our platform interviews and assesses candidates for desirable soft skills and behaviors, and even matches the resultant talent profiles to your company values.

Of course, the benefit is that hire quality is achieved and proven for you – you don’t have to worry about biased interviewers, bad questions, enforcing consistent processes, and the other headaches of recruitment. With that time back, you can focus on your people.

Or, think about it this way: LinkedIn is getting really smart with its hiring. Other companies like Apple, Delta, and IBM are too. Will you be left behind?

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