by N. Purcell | May 9, 2022 | 5 Min Read

How to define (and hire) soft skills in business


If you find yourself asking, “What do you mean by soft skills?” you’ve come to the right place.

Soft skills are a large part of the employee experience. There are many different types of soft skills, from attitudes and work ethic to communication and teamwork. People with these skill sets tend to make coming to work a more pleasant experience.

Hiring and training new employees are costly and time-consuming investments. In addition, finding employees with the right mix of soft skills and technical skills can be difficult, and holding on to them can be even more challenging.

While hard skills are critical to job performance, employers find that soft skills are more challenging to teach – even with a dedicated soft skills training program. Employers also struggle to measure and recruit for these interpersonal skills.

According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report, 91% said that soft skills are essential to the future of recruiting and HR in general. And 80% strongly agreed that soft skills are important to a company’s success.

So, let’s dig into the question, “What do you mean by soft skills?” a little more. We'll define soft skills in business, how they pertain to work, highlight in-demand soft skills, and share what to ask during the interview process to determine whether candidates possess these desirable skills.

What do you mean by “soft skills?”

What is the meaning of soft skills? To fully answer this question, we must also review what hard skills are.

Hard skills, or technical skills, are job-specific knowledge and abilities learned through education, training, and hands-on experience. And what’s a soft skill? Soft skills are interpersonal attributes and work habits that are much harder to quantify and teach than hard skills.

While some technical skills change, soft skills are evergreen. Some soft skills explained are adaptability, communication, and time management. Regardless of industry, career path, or technological advancements, they're always valuable.

Different types of soft skills to look for in new hires

What are considered soft skills? We’ve already mentioned some of them, but there are plenty more to consider when interviewing new hires:

  • Decision-making
  • Leadership
  • Critical thinking
  • Empathy
  • Organization
  • Motivation
  • Honesty
  • Patience
  • Creativity
  • Consistency
  • Flexibility

Depending on your industry and company culture, some soft skills will be more valuable than others. This section highlights several relevant soft skills across the board. Whether your employees are remote or in-office, keep an eye out for these different types of soft skills in potential employees.


Collaborating with others and reaching goals as a team is imperative in the workplace. It involves contributing to other people’s work and accepting help when needed. A great collaborator is respectful, communicative, listens, and contributes.

Different teams within your organization need to come together and work on projects for the greater good of the business, whether it's preparing a pitch, delivering a presentation, designing a new product, or working with another brand.

Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution is the ability to de-escalate and resolve arguments or disagreements. It includes having the emotional intelligence to accept differences and neutralize interpersonal issues.

Everyone has different levels of tolerance and trigger points. If conflict runs rampant among team members, the quality of work suffers. Without this soft skill, projects can fall behind or fail.


When an expert defines soft skills in business, they almost always include problem-solving as a universally desirable skill. When projects come to a halt, a soft-skilled employee should be able to approach the situation analytically and creatively to resolve the issue.

In addition, successful problem-solvers are open and willing to consider multiple perspectives to develop an agreeable solution.

Time management

You can hire the most technically skilled employee, but they will delay projects and inevitably frustrate project managers if they cannot prioritize, organize, and meet deadlines. However, excelling in time management is a soft skill that will benefit not only the individual but also their team.

How to interview for soft skills

Now that you can answer the question, “What is soft skills?” you need to know how to look for them during the interview process. The importance of soft skills, also called power skills, varies by industry, but they’re among the top skills employers need to be looking for when interviewing candidates.

Someone may look impressive on paper with excellent technical, job-specific skillsets, but if they don’t work well with a team or can’t manage their time, they may not be successful in the workplace.

Here are some behavior-based questions to ask candidates to determine whether they have the soft skills needed to succeed at your company:

  • How do you prioritize tasks when you have multiple deadlines?
  • Discuss a time when you had to work through a difficult situation with your team.
  • How do you explain new topics, processes, and projects to co-workers who are unfamiliar with them?
  • What do you do if employees disagree with a decision you’ve made?
  • What is your ideal work environment and means of communication?
  • Tell me about a problem that you solved in a unique and creative way.
  • What are your top three considerations when looking for a new employer?
  • How do you develop relationships with your co-workers and managers?
  • How do you typically deal with a difficult co-worker or client?
  • What is your biggest failure at work? How did you handle it and learn from it?

Besides asking questions like these, pay attention to nonverbal cues. Are they actively listening? Do they seem uncomfortable? Do they interrupt you? Do they use “I” or “we” more when answering questions? Additionally, observe if candidates ask follow-up questions.

Empower employees with soft skills and technical skills through custom training

Now that you can confidently answer "What do you mean by soft skills?” – how do you implement continuous soft skills training at your organization?

Once you make your hiring decisions, the best way to execute a strategic onboarding and custom training program is through a Learning Management System (LMS) like Spoke® by Unboxed Training & Technology.

Invest in your employees by providing continuous training and upskilling opportunities with engaging, custom content that makes learning fun. When you prioritize learning and development, you communicate that your company cares about your employees’ career growth.

We make the process of onboarding, training, and upskilling simple. Our custom training programs are tailored to fit the needs of your people, empowering them to be at the top of their game, so your company can be at the top of your industry. Request a demo today.

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