Grey logo tab top
Blog Post

Time to embrace the “softer” side of hiring

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief when you hire an employee for a position. The hiring managers are happy to fill the need on their team. HR is happy to have filled a hole in the company. The employee is excited to have a new job.

Too often, though, the path to filing that position goes down a single, narrow hallway…and stops. The sign above it says, “Hard Skills Only!”

Job descriptions are created from cookie cutter templates: Responsibilities.  Qualifications. Technical Skills. Education. Your automatic screener only allows people that hit those “hard” targets. And your phone screeners likely do the same.

But there’s another side to the candidate coin: Soft skills. And balancing both sides is as important to a successful hire as Yin to Yang.

A Soft Skill Refresher

A relatively new-ish term, “soft skills” are officially defined as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” (Thanks, Mr. Dictionary.)  I think we’d agree that “effective interaction” and “harmony with others” are pretty major items in the PRO column of a candidate, no?

Criteria like collaboration, creativity, communication style, adaptability, time management are crucial to a successful match — and they are the things that help elevate amazing candidates above others with similar hard skills.

But are you paying attention to them?

Held Back in “Old School”

Hard skill hiring was the law of the land for generations. But we’re in an era where people demand more balance, more satisfaction, more alignment with their values. Employees are developing their softer skills to be more marketable and productive. And your competitors are building their employer brands and communicating their value of soft skills, thereby increasing their chances of finding better talent fits.

According to a 2019 LinkedIn report, 91% of talent professionals and hiring managers cite soft skills as an issue, and 89% say their “bad hires” were a poor soft-skill match.

Old school hiring approaches don’t yield the same success today. They result in higher turnover and lower satisfaction. So why do some companies still fail (or refuse) to adequately value or assess these soft skills?

For starters, ignoring soft skills is easier. And It’s certainly a faster path to a hire. Hard skill needs are easier to define, and to identify in candidates. They are tangible topics to ask questions around. Without a doubt, they are the indispensable “Yin.”

And for many of our clients, it’s a case of, “Well…this is the way we’ve always done it.” The path of least resistance is relying on those job description templates, automated screeners and script-driven interviews.

But only looking at hard skills puts a serious dent in your chances for successful, long-term hires. And you can start counting the days until you have to repeat this process all over again.

How Grey Gets There

Grey Search + Strategy’s brand is built on doing whatever it takes to become a virtual extension of a clients’ business to deliver team members that fit their culture…not just fill the job. We set out to learn everything we can about their company. We tour their facilities, we meet with leaders, go on ride-alongs with salespeople, assess team dynamics, and absorb their environment.

From there, we settle into a deep-dive needs assessment. We ask a lot of questions to understand why the position is available, and how it would support the company’s future growth. The goal is to combine all of the knowledge we’ve gained about their organization, their culture and their needs to help us identify the best possible talent fit. 

But we face a common roadblock we often face is that the most important—if not the only—needs they identify are focused on requirements, industry experience and education. 

A Client Time Machine

I recall the first needs assessment conversation I had with a custom manufacturing client seven years ago. When I asked who they felt their ideal hire was, they replied, “We need a degree in mechanical engineering, two years of tool designing experience, 5-8 years of manufacturing engineering experience, three years of lean experience and management experience in a non-union environment.”

I paused, waiting for them to continue their description. But that was it.

I thought, “What about the skills that are going to allow this person to connect with the other people? Think outside the box? Bring a team together in a trusting environment that allows ideas to flow?”

Terms like “good communicator” and “positive attitude” popped up sporadically. But defining the deeper soft skills that would identify their perfect hire was simply not on their radar. They didn’t understand how such skills could catapult the employee and the company forward. They didn’t yet know was how much of an impact this newer way of thinking would have on their business. Yet they trusted our guidance and our research, and they began to embrace this new way of thinking.

Fast forward to the present—and our conversations still cover the hard skill requirements of a job. But the bulk of our conversation now seeks to identify traits like great time management, collaboration and team building, persuasion, and the ability to built trust quickly.

As a result, the most recent hire for this client looks nothing like a hire they made four years ago. The company’s evolution from a hard skill-only mindset to one that allowed them to hire stronger, more adaptable, longer-term team members has resulted in 50% lower turnover and helped fuel a 10% year-over-year growth.

Bringing Yin and Yang Together

There’s no denying the importance of identifying a functional match for the requirements of your job. But finding the best possible fit for your opportunity—one that helps an employee drive your business AND thrive in your culture—means identifying and valuing the softer skills that would make them a success for you. Balance the hard and soft. Be open-minded. And when you least expect it, you might just find your next Employee of the Year.


Grey Search + Strategy believes that the greatest fit between candidates and companies is found by going beyond resumes and references. We explore that grey area for a more strategic approach on what impacts your hiring and recruiting efforts. If you’re ready for an expert recruiting partner with a better approach to delivering stronger candidates and better results, drop us a line today!

Share this post:

Stop the revolving
door of


Having trouble attracting top talent? Need a better approach for retaining your best people? Looking for the perfect culture match? Drop us a line today and let us know how we can help.
Scroll to Top