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How can I analyse a candidate’s intangible skills?

How can I analyse a candidate’s intangible skills?

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It's easy to find out about a candidate's history of sales success or their advanced technical ability, but intangible skills may be harder to spot. So how do you find them – and when?

Whether you're trying to fill an executive-level position or one closer to the shop floor, intangibles such as attitude and common sense can be the difference between someone who proves merely competent and one who goes on to shine.

Evaluating an applicant’s intangible skills is highly useful where your position requires slightly more than pure qualifications and experience, and also when you need to make a decision between similar candidates.

Discovering intangible skills
These skills may be deemed intangible, but they are in fact, very real. Here are a few you might look out for

  • Unflappability – you may want someone who simply can stay calm when all hell is breaking lose.
  • Intuition – some people can ‘read between the lines’ giving them a better insight and better decision making.
  • Cheerfulness – a smile is infectious and someone who can bring a good vibe to your company can be invaluable.
  • Confidence – having courage in their convictions is a great attribute for staff as it allows them to get on with their job and make an impact.
  • Honesty – a willingness to take responsibility for actions and decisions may help the right applicant fit into your vacancy.
  • Persuasiveness – someone who can influence others can help your business win some battles.

By their very nature intangible skills aren't obvious, but highly useful. However, every positive has to come with a negative and there are many undesirable intangible skills such as poor timekeeping, forgetfulness and laziness.

It's important to look deeper into each application so you don't pass over good options. A candidate who doesn't meet your minimum qualification criteria, but who exhibits an exceptionally strong facility in creative problem solving, may prove to be the best choice.

The candidate who admits to their failings may seem to be ruling themselves out of a job, but they also may simply be more confident than someone who covers up their failings. It’s up to you to look beyond the obvious.

As you sift through CVs try to look for experiences that reveal a candidate's personality traits. What you are looking for is not how they might cope in a hypothetical situation, but how they actually dealt with real situations.

It can be difficult to spot these in CVs, but that doesn't mean you have to meet every candidate face to face. Consider conducting telephone interviews with the specific purpose of uncovering intangible skills.

List a few of the more important attributes that you're looking for and pose questions such as “Can you tell me a time when you used your initiative?”, “How do you stay calm is stressful situations?” or “How important is creativity when problem-solving?” to get a feel of their abilities.

Staying ahead of the candidate
When looking for intangibles, you may find that an astute candidate is anticipating what you are looking for and will respond with what you want to hear.

You need to be on your guard for the glib or insincere response that somehow doesn't ring true. Your antennae need to be fully on.

Sometimes you can simply ask the question directly to see how the candidate substantiates their answers. Then try disagreeing with them to see if they can back up their claims.

Looking for intangibles is about first making clear what you are looking for – and being creative in your approach to getting the right answers.
Getting to know a candidate’s intangibles, and being proved right, is an excellent way to start a good working relationship. You will have a better understanding for how to shape their development and you will have honed an important intangible skill of your own – how to look for intangibles.