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This is where you can peer into our minds and learn a bit more about us as recruiters, consultants and humans. Expect plenty of insight into Consumer, Retail, Recruitment, and life in our Leeds and London spaces. Some tips from the top and the odd guest appearance. Enjoy and please feel free to leave us a comment!

The fierce need for soft skills.

26th November 2021

by Holly Cherry

The last 21 months have brought many changes to the working landscape across many sectors. In the corporate world the biggest shift has been the movement towards ‘hybrid’ working. Remote working – more specifically remote managing – of a team is a challenge many of our network face; how to engage and connect with colleagues you never really see any more?! Certainly empathy and connection are two core values required of any leader at any time, but even more so now the face-to-face exposure to each other has reduced. Our working relationships have shifted also; through talking online we’ve met each other’s pets and children, seen the inside of homes and perhaps allowed our feelings to enter the chat a bit more often as we’ve navigated this very personal but also collective experience. Therefore, in this new space we find ourselves, are we looking for the same skillset from leaders compared to before? Perhaps not, and in that case how do we assess for a more relevant skillset at interview?

We are familiar with our traditional soft skills when recruiting leadership roles; an effective listener, communicator, ability to deliver success through others. Would we add bravery to the list? What about compassion and mindfulness? The meaning of ‘being able to cope with pressure’ and ‘flexible to change’ has shifted completely and the changing times trigger humans’ inherent instinct to adapt. Whilst traditional soft skills will always be relevant, hiring managers need to think about the new skills they are looking for if they are going to recruit the right employees.

So how do we interview for these?

The switch to remote working in 2020/21 presented us all with challenges that needed to be met head on. Everybody has a story to tell from that first lockdown in summer 2020, and another from the winter lockdowns that followed. What did they find tough about that time, and how did they adapt? What did they learn about themselves and others? Hiring managers and recruiters should be looking at how candidates have changed for the better, and how they will find and encourage personal development in others. Recent times give us an opportunity to talk around these topics and get a more well-rounded version of the candidate.

So what can we positively glean about a candidate and their attributes at interview by asking about these things? Perhaps not previously tech savvy, candidate A’s shift to remote working proved initially tough, but with determination and patience they overcame these barriers. Candidate B knew that losing the buzz and routine of the office would become demotivating, so he kept himself busy with daily exercise and exploration of the Pomodoro technique. By implementing a routine, they learned the best working style for them, and self-regulated in a truly evolved way. Candidates that interpret their pandemic experiences into new strengths have a brilliant opportunity to sell themselves at interview.

There will be unique moments in everybody’s life when an unexpected challenge had to be met head on, but traditional interview questions do not always reveal these types of examples. Hiring managers can ask certain questions to draw this insight out of candidates; Explain a time when you have had to be brave for your team? Were there periods of uncertainty you navigated, and how did you take those on? Can you explain a time when you have helped someone overcome a personal difficulty? We need to delve deeper to find the true character of our candidates, in doing so, better performing and understanding workplaces can be built. Ask a candidate to describe themselves before and after the pandemic and this will enable you to identify how they have grown and learnt the most. As Covid has rendered many roles, roles of change, successful leaders become those that have developed the capacity to utilise these skills and apply them to their new environment. A shared experience that we can all relate to; we are looking for someone that can acknowledge this and utilise it to build a better team.

Now is a great opportunity to think about some redefinitions. These are updated skills we should be looking for when recruiting the strongest candidates to manage the increased pressure the Consumer Goods & Retail sector has encountered. We must acknowledge how we have been required to adapt to operate in exceptional circumstances and should therefore take advantage of these adapted skills to ensure success and growth moving forward. The world has changed at a fierce rate and our soft skills have a new look.

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