Three individuals interviewing a candidate while sitting at a table

Technical skills are no doubt important, but soft skills, interpersonal qualities, and personal attributes can often determine the success of professional executive candidates in their roles.

As a recruiter at an organization, it’s your responsibility to assess the best candidates for the available job. They should not only possess the technical knowledge but also know how to lead, engage, and motivate other individuals in their team.

Therefore, in this article, we’ll discuss how you can identify crucial soft skills and non-technical traits and hire the right person for the job.

Here’s what you need to know:

There’s More Than Meets The Eye When Assessing Soft Skills

Soft skills encompass a wide range of attributes that go beyond technical proficiency in a person. These skills include communication emotional intelligence, adaptability, teamwork, problem-solving, time management, and more. Therefore, these skills are often difficult to quantify, but they play a pivotal role in an individual’s effectiveness within an organization.

Therefore, you must design assessment criteria unique to the role in the hierarchy to assess their proficiency.


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Why It’s Important To Focus On Soft Skills

Executive and technical personnel must often interact with employees, team members, seniors, and customers. That’s why they must be able to effectively communicate with each person about the technical aspects of their job. This is where soft skills come into play. Here are some reasons why soft skills matter in an organization:

Enhanced Communication

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful organization. Consider hiring candidates who possess strong communication skills. They should effectively convey ideas, collaborate seamlessly, and prevent misunderstandings that could lead to conflicts or errors.

Teamwork and Collaboration

In today’s interconnected world, teamwork is essential. You’ll need professionals who can collaborate across diverse teams, adapt to different working styles, and contribute positively to group dynamics to create a cohesive and efficient work environment.


Change is a constant in the business world. Consider employees who can navigate shifts in priorities, industries, and technologies with grace. They should be able to remain open to learning, unafraid of new challenges, and capable of thriving in evolving circumstances.

Leadership Potential

Even for individual contributors, leadership skills are crucial. Look for soft skills like empathy, the ability to inspire, and conflict resolution to pave the way for future leaders who can motivate and guide their teams effectively.

Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking

Technical skills provide the foundation, but problem-solving and critical thinking skills enable employees to analyze situations, identify root causes, and develop innovative solutions. Leaders with these skills can navigate tumultuous business situations and ensure their team remains motivated and productive even during difficult times.

a person looking at a CV while interviewing a candidate

How To Identify Soft Skills During Recruitment

Assessing soft skills during the recruitment process can be quite challenging. However, several effective methods can gauge a candidate’s non-technical attributes. Some of which we have discussed as follows:

Behavioral Interviews

Behavioral interviews are a powerful tool for uncovering a candidate’s soft skills. During these interviews, you can ask the candidates to provide specific examples of how they’ve handled situations in the past. They should be using The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to structure their responses:

  • Situation:Describe the context of the situation.
  • Task:Explain the task or challenge they faced.
  • Action:Detail the actions they took to address the situation.
  • Result:Share the outcomes and results of their actions.

This will help you assess soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, adaptability, teamwork, and leadership. Candidates who provide you with well-rounded and relevant examples often demonstrate a stronger proficiency in these areas.

Role-Specific Scenarios

Presenting candidates with role-specific scenarios or challenges will allowyou to gauge how the candidates approach complex situations. These scenarios can closely mimic the challenges they might encounter in the actual job. You can observe how the candidates analyze the situation, make decisions, and communicate their thought processes, helping you gain insights into their problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making skills.

For instance, if you’re interviewing a candidate for a project management role, you can give them a scenario involving conflicting priorities and limited resources. Their response can help you evaluate their ability to prioritize, collaborate with team members, and find creative solutions.


a person interviewing a woman in an office

Assessment Centers

Assessment centers are comprehensive evaluation platforms that simulate real workplace situations. Here, candidates participate in various exercises, discussions, and tasks that assess their soft skills across different contexts. These centers are particularly useful for evaluating candidates’ teamwork, leadership, communication, and problem-solving abilities.

Assessment center activities could include group discussions, team projects, presentations, and situational exercises. As an observer, you can carefully monitor how candidates interact, handle pressure, and contribute to the team’s goals. This approach provides a holistic view of a candidate’s soft skills in action.

Reference Checks

While reference checks are often used to verify a candidate’s employment history and work ethic, they can also provide insights into their soft skills. You can speak with previous employers, supervisors, or colleagues. It’ll reveal how a candidate collaborates with others, communicates, manages time, and responds to challenges.

Moreover, use open-ended questions during reference checks. It can often elicit information about a candidate’s interpersonal skills, leadership potential, and overall fit within a team. You can also get feedback from individuals who have directly worked with your potential candidate as they can offer valuable perspectives.

Psychometric Assessments

Psychometric assessments are standardized tests that measure an individual’s cognitive abilities, personality traits, and emotional intelligence. These assessments provide a more objective approach to evaluating soft skills. Personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the Big Five personality traits, can offer you insights into a candidate’s interpersonal skills, communication style, and adaptability.

Emotional intelligence assessments also measure an individual’s ability to understand and manage their emotions and their awareness of others’ emotions. Therefore, these tests provide valuable information about a candidate’s empathy, interpersonal relationships, and conflict-resolution skills.

two individuals interviewing a candidate

Cochran, Cochran & Yale: Elevating Soft Skills in Executive Recruitment

At Cochran, Cochran & Yale, we understand that soft skills are the bedrock of effective leadership and organizational success. Our executive recruitment services go beyond identifying technical expertise; we critically assesssoft skills to ensure our candidates possess the qualities necessary to thrive in their roles.

With a proven track record in New York’s competitive business landscape, we’ve honed the art of identifying and assessing crucial non-technical traits. Our thorough evaluation process, which combines behavioral interviews, role-specific scenarios, and psychometric assessments, ensures that the executives we place possess the communication, leadership, adaptability, and problem-solving skills needed to drive your organization forward.

Are You Ready to Elevate Your Leadership Team? Contact The Executive Search Firm, Cochran, Cochran, & Yale Today!

In a world where soft skills are the differentiator in leadership success, make the wise choice and partner with Cochran, Cochran & Yale. Our leadership Executive recruiter NY are designed to identify the non-technical attributes that truly matter. Contact us today to learn more about our CFO job search service.