Source For Soft Skills, Not Hard Skills

[fa icon="calendar"] Apr 18, 2016 2:55:50 PM / by Andy Wolfe

Andy Wolfe


Let’s face it: identifying, engaging, and hiring great people is hard work.

What are the top things you look for when you’re sourcing candidates? If specific hard skills, certifications, degrees, or other keywords are on the list  I'd challenge you to reconsider sourcing for great people, not great keywords.

You can spend hours crafting the best set of search terms and attend seminars to get the most out of keyword sourcing — but it still won’t be as fruitful as identifying great people based on their soft skills.

So what’s the secret sauce?

Find great people, hire by role, and then equip them with any additional skills you need (rather than the other way around). It’s pretty simple; we've broken it down below.

Find Great Qualified Candidates

The core problem during this process isn’t trying to find the right keywords, it’s to find qualified candidates. Rather than attempting to zero in on the best keywords to search, do what you actually came to do, and find the right candidates. Your best method will be to do use what has always worked: your employees' top connections.

Unlike the people you find by keyword searches, your own source of top contacts has already been pre-vetted as talented. You won’t need to wonder if they’re qualified matches or not, because that work has already been done for you when they were recommended — completely cutting out the noise typical of keyword sourcing.

Equip Them With The Skills They Need

“All these individuals might be great workers, but they don’t have the skills I want. That’s why I do keyword searches in the first place," you might think.

Think about it this way: it’s easier to hire someone with excellent soft skills (such as good communication, team work, the ability to learn fast) and teach them the few hard skills they need for the job, than it is to hire someone with the right technical skills but lacking in soft skills.

Inherent personality traits that make up great employees are hard to teach and are therefore the top essentials you should be looking for as early in the hiring process as possible. Tapping into your employees' top connections will help you in that!

It may take a person who lacks the technical skills a bit longer to get up to speed, but the investment is well worth it. If you hire someone who is genuinely a good fit for the organization, it is more likely that the individual will stick around longer.

There are plenty of brilliant people out there who are often not found and/or hired for jobs because they lack a single technical skill. That is an enourmous waste of talent. Don’t limit your candidate pool!

Putting It All Together

Identify your employees' top connections, engage with those who match the broad skills you need for the role (like job function), hire the best fit, and train them on any specific skills they need. This works because trust is transitive, people respond to their connections, people tend to stay in the same industry for an extended period of time, and smart people learn quickly.


You can use a site like Udacity for the last bit. Employees can take online courses for any skillset or area you need them to master for the particular job. Now you’ve got a solid employee who has all the skills you need them to have.

Case Study

Take ROIKOI's lead engineer, Dave, as an example. We found Dave through our own smarter sourcing software (obviously), but he had never written Python in a production environment before, an essential skill needed for the position. However, we thought he was a great match because of his intelligence and experience with software development in a startup environment. When we interviewed Dave, unprompted, he went and re-coded a part of our application in Python, learning on-the-fly — and he crushed it. After he was hired, he bought a couple books, Google’d around for a bit, and now’s he is one of our top performers.

Think about it: with a traditional recruiting method, Dave may not have been hired because he didn’t have Python experience, but by using this new generation of sourcing, we were able to have someone highly qualified and intelligent join our team who now writes great Python code.

So don't worry about ticking off all the technical boxes — just identify great people with great soft skills, and teach them any missing skills with some training once they join.



Check out how ROIKOI implements this new generation of smarter sourcing.

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Topics: Recruiting, Sourcing, Hiring

Andy Wolfe

Written by Andy Wolfe

I'm co-founder and CEO of ROIKOI, a smarter sourcing platform where you get your own database of candidates pre-filtered for talent and fit.