Soft skills refer to a set of essential competencies for thriving in today’s professional world.

Their growing importance in recent years has made them a focal point for recruitment professionals and TA specialists. Admittedly, their evaluation remains complex, as they are not easily objectively measurable.

However, analysing soft skills to predict a candidate’s suitability for a role is equally as important as assessing technical expertise.

This article will explore the concept of soft skills, their importance in the professional world, and some tips on how to develop them.

Soft skills: What are they?

To understand the concept of soft skills, it is necessary not only to define them but also to distinguish them from other forms of skills.

Definition of soft skills

Soft skills, also known as behavioural or transversal skills, are essential skills not tied to any specific technical expertise but are crucial for success in a professional and interpersonal environment.

They are often related to personality, emotions, and human interactions.

The term first appeared in 1972 when American officer Whitmore wanted to highlight the importance of how soldiers reacted when they achieved a victory.

The definition of soft skills emphasised interpersonal skills to describe abilities that are not learned, but are as important as technical skills.

A few years later, the term became more popular and its usage was directed towards the professional context.

In recent years, the most sought-after soft skills have become key criteria in recruitment processes.

Differences between Soft skills, Hard skills and Mad skills

On many points, the concept of soft skills should be distinguished from hard skills and mad skills.

Hard skills refer to technical skills that are more tangible, as they designate practical skills or the know-how of a person in a specific field. This could be, for example, the mastery of a tool.

These skills are acquired through training, university courses, or professional experience. Moreover, they are easily verifiable and are mentioned on CVs and diplomas, unlike soft skills.

Mad skills, on the other hand, are a new way of describing skills developed that relate to someone’s hobbies.

These skills refer to an excellent level of mastery and exceptional performance in the field, generally resulting from intensive training, natural talents, or a combination of both.

Soft skills are defined as a set of personal abilities that allow one to be more efficient and achieve objectives in various professional and personal contexts.

Examples of soft skills include time management, sociability, communication, stress management, emotional intelligence, and many others.

What is the importance of soft skills?

Soft skills have taken on an important role in the professional field. They have become characteristic elements of a good collaborator or a good leader.

Importance of soft skills for companies

Companies pay special attention to the soft skills of their employees. Some proceed with the evaluation of soft skills to offer promotions or to form more productive teams.

Other companies consider it very profitable to invest in improving these skills through training or professional coaching on personal development for employees and managers.

Importance of soft skills in recruitment

Soft skills profoundly impact recruitment processes. They are now part of the selection criteria used in many companies to assess the personality traits of candidates.

Also, increasingly aware of the importance of cultural compatibility, companies organize hires based on specific soft skills to know if a person shares the company culture and values.

Thus, they limit the risks of turnover and probation periods that do not lead to successful hires, despite the candidates’ experience and technical skills.

Importance of soft skills for candidates

Soft skills are an important factor in securing a position or succeeding in an interview. Therefore, the candidate is called upon to highlight their soft skills that match the desired position and can contribute to the success of the company.

For example, a candidate for a manager position can demonstrate their crisis management capabilities and how they can be useful with their skills, by recounting situations where they effectively resolved a problem in the company.

What are the most important soft skills in recruitment?

Several soft skills are sought after during recruitment. Generally, they are defined according to the characteristics of the positions to be filled. However, some of them are regularly among recruiters’ expectations.


A good ability to communicate is one of the most sought after soft skills in companies. For example, it is important for recruitment in:

  • The commercial field;
  • Customer service;
  • Personal services;
  • The healthcare sector;
  • Etc.

Communication skills are essential for conveying messages or information clearly. This could be directed to clients, partners, colleagues, or other people.

A good communicator is someone who expresses themselves well and knows how to adapt their message according to their peers to be understood. They also understand others and convey their message without difficulty.

Flexibility and adaptability

These soft skills are important and sought after due to the changes that can influence an organisation’s needs in the short, medium, or long term.

Indeed, flexibility demonstrates the desire to evolve and the ability to cope with changes, stressful situations, and necessary adjustments in work processes. Combined with adaptability, this quality also promotes team cohesion.

Both highlight open-mindedness and the ability to overcome obstacles without being particularly disturbed. They indicate, for example, that the candidate will be comfortable with continuous learning and adopting new methods or technologies.

Team spirit

Team spirit fosters cohesion and effective collaboration among employees within an organisation. It is a soft skill that refers to an individual’s ability to work effectively with others to achieve a common goal.

Team spirit helps maintain a harmonious and motivating work environment in the company. It promotes employee engagement and productivity, making it an important asset during recruitment.

It should be understood that collaborative work increasingly offers opportunities in terms of innovation and results for companies. A person with good team spirit is generally appreciated in professional settings.

Top 10 most sought after soft skills in the coming years

The World Economic Forum conducted a study that identified the 10 most sought-after soft skills in the coming years. These are:

  • Critical thinking and analysis: this soft skill refers to an individual’s ability to objectively evaluate information, study it, and conduct sound reasoning;
  • Analytical thinking and innovation: it represents the ability to analyse data or problems to come up with innovative solutions;
  • Complex problem-solving: this soft skill is the ability to analyse, understand, and solve difficult situations that take into account multiple elements, by analysing their root causes and proposing effective solutions;
  • Reasoning, problem-solving, and ideation: here, it is about the ability to critically analyse a posed problem to understand it and find appropriate solutions;
  • Creativity, originality, and initiative: these transversal skills translate the ability to innovate in thinking, propose original ideas, and be proactive;
  • Resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility: this set of soft skills defines the ability to overcome traumatic events, pressures, challenges and adapt to changes;
  • Leadership and social influence: these soft skills represent an individual’s ability to inspire, motivate, and guide a group towards achieving common goals, as well as positively impact those around them;
  • Learning strategies: this soft skill designates the ability to identify, develop, and implement effective methods for acquiring new skills and knowledge;
  • Technology design and programming: these refer to the talent related to the design and implementation of innovative solutions with the help of appropriate technological or computer tools;
  • Use, management, and technological monitoring: these skills represent the ability to use recent technological tools, manage resources to stay informed of advances in their field, and conduct in-depth information studies and analyses.

How to evaluate soft skills during recruitment?

Many approaches now allow companies to evaluate the soft skills of their candidates during recruitment.

Individual and collective simulations

Individual and collective simulations consist of simulating working conditions in the form of exercises or case studies. This involves creating common scenarios that are close to real work situations based on the position to be filled.

The objective of this evaluation strategy is to get the candidate to apply their soft skills. Thus, the recruiter can identify and evaluate them.

The recruiter must observe the candidate’s reactions and management capabilities. They should draw indications about their behavioural, emotional, or cognitive aptitudes relative to the company’s needs.

Professional and personality tests

Professional and personality tests complement individual and collective simulations to evaluate candidates’ behaviours and skills. For example, there are logical tests, personality tests like SWIPE, etc.

These tests analyse candidates’ profiles to provide additional information on their personality traits and work preferences. They also include an assessment of compatibility with the company’s culture and specific job requirements.

With this information, recruitment managers gain better knowledge of candidates’ personal faculties. They contribute to informed decision-making during recruitment.

Structured face-to-face interviews

Structured face-to-face interviews provide concrete examples of situations where the candidate has used their soft skills. It is a stage of the interview where candidates are asked to recount experiences where they used the relevant skills.

Candidates can describe how they worked in a team and managed conflicts or stressful situations. This offers an opportunity to evaluate their interactive and communication skills, as well as their credibility.

Professional reference checks

It is also advisable to ask for professional references, i.e., information from the candidate’s former employers or colleagues. Simply contact them to get opinions on the candidate’s skills and behaviours at work.

However, it is necessary to follow the legal provisions for this practice, notably Articles L1221-6, L1221-8, and L1221-9 of the Labour Code. It is also important to obtain the candidate’s consent before making requests.

How to develop soft skills using the 70/20/10 method?

The 70/20/10 method is a model put forward by Professors Michael Lombardo, Robert Eichinger, and Morgan McCall. It is used by many companies seeking to improve their skills development policies.

This method is based on a combination of effective means. Here are its recommendations for developing soft skills.

On-the-job application (70%)

On-the-job application involves practising a soft skill in real situations, especially in a professional environment. This allows the individual to move beyond theoretical understanding and to know their ability to apply it.

They test their level of mastery of the skill. They analyse how they practise it and identify any mistakes. Thus, the candidate adjusts their actions accordingly. They progress and eventually master the skill.

Learning from others (20%)

Learning from others allows one to learn from others’ experiences regarding their soft skills. This can take the form of structured exchanges. For example, peer-sharing circles like discussion platforms and co-development groups.

These means offer the opportunity to exchange best practices related to the skills to be developed. Coaching, mentoring, or other types of individual support are also effective ways to learn from others.

Training and simulations (10%)

There are several training programs available to improve soft skills. Even though it is to a lesser extent, these training programs also constitute resources for developing soft skills.

Here, it is recommended to select programs that align with one’s objectives and those that offer practical simulations.

What to remember about the importance of soft skills in recruitment:

It is clear that soft skills influence professional success and cohesion within companies.

They have become essential for evaluating a candidate’s suitability for a position and ensuring good social interaction within the company.

Now defined as behavioural skills related to interpersonal skills, soft skills are therefore sought after by many companies in their recruitment processes.