15 Soft Skills to Look for When Hiring New Employees

Hiring concept

When you’re trying to hire a new employee, what you see on paper is never the whole story. In fact, what you see on paper can be downright misleading. So what attitudes and abilities should an interviewer look for once they have a candidate in a room? Is it better to value someone who’s a self-starter, or should communication skills, or even empathy, weigh heavier?

To help us find the right people for our teams, we asked Young Entrepreneur Council members the following question:

Q. Which soft skill do you look for most in a new hire, and why is it particularly valuable?

1. Smart and strategic

A prospective employee doesn’t have to have the exact expertise for a certain position, but they must be smart, strategic, and willing to learn how to do the job, no matter what it takes. —Kristin MarquetCreative Development Agency, LLC

2. Listening skills

Listening skills are important. Someone who really listens to the right people can absorb important information and learn at a much faster rate. They also learn from others’ mistakes and tend to have an accelerated business and life path. – Russell KommereSoftware Associates Inc.

3. Perseverance

Perseverance is the key component that all employees must have at a creative and innovative company. When working on projects that push the boundaries of what is possible, there are going to be challenges and obstacles. It is important that an employee has the perseverance to overcome those challenges and push to bring the concept to life. – Bobby PalmieriLilo Social

4. Verbal communication

The ability to communicate effectively with both teammates and clients is extremely important. As a digital marketing and e-commerce development company, it is common to have clients that are not well-versed in all the technicalities of marketing and web development. It is crucial that our employees are able to communicate technical details in a way that the client can understand. —Duran InciOptimum7

5. Willingness to own new ideas

When looking into new hires, it is incredibly important for us to find people who are willing to pick up a new task or assignment, or can create one for themselves that they think will push the company forward and make our clients more successful. If a potential new hire shows this ability, it is a positive. —Brandon Pindulic, OpGen Media

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6. Empathy

Empathy is the first thing I look for in a new hire because it’s perhaps the most transferable skill. An empathetic person is a strong communicator and problem solver. They reflexively consider what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes, which gives insight into possible consumer needs and solutions. An empathetic person is inclined to listen more than they talk, gathering information so they can make informed decisions when action is needed. —Sean HarperKin Insurance

7. Tenacity

I’ve found the most tenacious employees are the ones who have the greatest desire to get things accomplished in the most effective way. In a startup environment, where things move quickly and timing is key, hiring individuals who can identify problems or challenges, and derive and execute quick and effective solutions, is key. —Mark KrassnerExpectful

8. Ability to self manage

More than almost anything else, we look for potential team members to be hungry—they need to have an almost insatiable drive inside that pushes them to always be growing, striving for more, and have the ability to self manage. We don’t have any “managers,” so every single person on our team needs to be able to take initiative and be autonomous (which is exactly what the best people want, too!). —Josh Allan DykstraStrengthscope U.S.

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9. Grit

Grit is what makes an employee think outside the box and stand during hardships. They need to have grit to be more flexible, and can think fast to adapt to any given situation. —Kate HancockOC Facial Care Center

10. Flexibility

Flexibility is one of the most important traits for someone to possess in my company’s field of marketing and public relations. In one day, you can be working on a major event, a national press placement, and dealing with a PR crisis. You need to be able to confidently and seamlessly shift from one role to another without losing your cool! —Leila LewisBe Inspired PR

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11. Initiative taker

I like to hire people who are self-starters and show lots of initiative. Some people need guidance about every aspect of a project—that’s fine for some jobs. In a more dynamic setting, however, you really want someone who’s self-motivated, creative, and able to come up with ideas on their own. That’s why I look for evidence that someone is able to take an idea and run with it. —Shawn PoratScorely

12. Prioritization

The ability to walk into the warehouse each morning with a clear, prioritized game plan of how to tackle the day in order to meet several different goals and objectives is an invaluable (and surprisingly hard-to-find!) skill. These team members are much happier, better suited for promotions and growth, and allow their managers to focus on strategy and sales, instead of micromanaging. —Saloni DoshiEcoEnclose, LLC

13. Self-awareness

You know that the right hire won’t be great at everything under the sun. Ask an applicant what they know they’re not good at, and they should be able to answer this question quickly and specifically. Generic answers will tell you that they have weak self-awareness. Hiring someone with strong self-awareness will pay dividends. They can execute and self-manage very effectively. —Roger LeeHuman Interest

14. Attitude

For us, it’s all about providing opportunities. We’re firm believers in hiring attitude over experience. We’ve found that people who possess a shared positive energy and a go-getter attitude result in a more engaged team where each member is passionate about contributing to our core mission. —Stephen UffordTrulioo

15. Culture fit

We not only look for skills but also look at personality to see if a candidate would fit our culture. We have had situations where people look amazing on paper, but when you meet them, you automatically know they would not fit well on the team. —Jessica GonzalezInCharged

RELATED: Hiring Your First Employee: 8 Key Questions to Ask

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