Episode #141 – How to Hire for Soft Skills in the Animal Health Industry and Veterinary Profession

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #141 - How to Hire for Soft Skills in the Animal Health Industry and Veterinary Profession
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Julea: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health Executive Search Consultant and Veterinary Recruiter, Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health Companies and Veterinary Employers hire top talent, while helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast episode, we’ll be talking about how to hire for soft skills. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: I’m glad to be here Julea to share this information.

Julea: Stacy, we’ve discussed soft skills before on occasion, but today, we’re going to talk about them from the point of view of the employer, is that right?

Stacy: That’s right. Because not only is it difficult to hire top talent in the marketplace today, but it’s even more difficult to hire for soft skills in this market.

Julea: Stacy, why is that?

Stacy: First of all, Julea, there just aren’t enough qualified candidates available at the moment in the marketplace. We’re in a candidates’ market where there are plenty of job openings and not enough candidates, especially in the Veterinary Profession. Second, soft skills are also scarce in the marketplace. Even if an employer is able to find a candidate who has all of the technical skills required for a position, that same candidate may be lacking in terms of soft skills.

Julea: Just how much do employers want soft skills these days?

Stacy: Good question Julea.  LinkedIn recently released its 2019 Global Talent Trends Report, and according to that report, 92% of talent professionals said that soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than hard skills. Not only that, but 89% of those professionals also indicated that when a new hire doesn’t work out, it’s because they lack critical soft skills.

Julea: Wow, Stacy, those are some pretty eye-opening numbers.

Stacy:  I agree Julea. They are, and they underscore the importance of hiring for soft skills and also how difficult it is to do so. After all, it’s easy to screen and hire for technical skills. Either the candidate can do the task that’s associated with the technical skill or they can’t. Technical skills are much easier to measure and to assess. That’s not the case with soft skills. It’s more difficult to test candidates for those skills during the interviewing and hiring process, so it’s easier for employers to make a mistake and hire the wrong person.

Julea: And I know that hiring the wrong person can be costly, isn’t that right Stacy?

Stacy: That’s absolutely right. That’s why it’s critical that an employer makes the best hire possible in terms of both technical skills and soft skills. They need both.

Julea: So what can employers do to make sure they make the best hire possible?

Stacy: Well, the first step is to figure out which soft skills are needed. There are two main areas that this applies to. First, it applies to the specific position that you’re trying to fill. And second, it applies to the organization overall.

With that in mind, the hiring manager and everyone else involved in the hiring process should focus on the job description and ask themselves which specific soft skills are required for the position. Which soft skills would make the candidate who fills the position a top candidate? These are the soft skills that the candidate should absolutely have.

Then, the hiring manager and everyone else involved in the hiring process should focus on what other soft skills the organization needs or what other soft skills the organization values. These aren’t necessarily must-have skills. These are more nice-to-have skills. As in, “It would be nice if our candidate had these skills, but if they don’t, then that’s okay.”

Julea: It seems as though the first step in effectively hiring for soft skills is to know exactly which soft skills you’re hiring for. Would that be accurate to say?

Stacy: That’s definitely accurate to say. Unfortunately, there are some employers who don’t know exactly which skills they’re looking for. Instead, they just have a vague idea. Only having a vague idea is not the best way to approach any aspect of the hiring process. After all, the only way that you can actually get exactly what you’re looking for is to know exactly what you’re looking for in the first place.

The next step in effectively hiring for soft skills is to put more of an emphasis on those skills during the interview stage of the hiring process.

Julea: Stacy, what do you mean by that?

Stacy: Just like the only way to get exactly what you’re looking for is to know exactly what you’re looking for, you can’t get the results you want in a certain area if you don’t intentionally focus on that area. It’s not going to happen by magic or by osmosis. If the interview stage of an organization’s hiring process does not focus on soft skills at all, then the members of that organization shouldn’t be surprised if they’re not able to hire effectively for soft skills. If you want to hire well for soft skills, then you must put an emphasis on soft skills and focus on them.

Julea: What does that look like, exactly?

Stacy: There are two ways to focus on soft skills during the interview stage of the hiring process. The first way is through observation of the candidate, and the second way is through the asking of targeted and specific questions related to soft skills.

Let’s say, for example, that an Animal Health company or Veterinary practice values the soft skills of active listening and communication. The members of that organization who are conducting the interview can observe the candidate during the interview and assess how well they listen and how well they communicate. Ideally, a candidate should be their best selves during an interview. In other words, if they possess the soft skills of active listening and communication, then they should be the best active listener and communicator they can possibly be during the interview.

In terms of the second way of focusing on soft skills, the hiring manager should ask behavioral-based interview questions, which we’ve discussed before. As you might guess, these types of questions are designed to explore a candidate’s behavior, and their behavior is directly linked to their soft skill set. These types of questions include “Tell me a time in the past when you had a conflict with a co-worker” or “Describe a project that you were a part of that was considered a failure.” You’re not looking for negative things, per se, but you want to get an idea of how the candidate reacts to adversity. Employers believe that past behavior and performance is a good indicator of future behavior and  performance.

Julea: Stacy, is this the kind of approach you would take if you’re trying to fill a managerial role or a leadership position?

Stacy: Yes, absolutely. And let me say that soft skills are even more important if an Animal Health company or Veterinary practice is trying to fill that type of role. When that’s the case, hiring for soft skills is critical. That’s because a manager or leader must be able to utilize soft skills on a more consistent basis in order for both them and the organization to be successful.

That being said, another way to hire effectively for soft skills is through the use of references.

Julea: Really? How’s that?

Stacy: When a hiring manager calls a candidate’s references, they should ask questions specifically designed to assess the candidate’s soft skill set. Since all soft skills deal in one way or another with interaction with other people, talking to other people is a great way to assess them. If you’re very interested in a candidate, then you should speak to between three and five people to get a good idea of the soft skill set of the candidate. When you speak to that many references, a pattern should start to emerge. That, coupled with what you saw during the face-to-face interview, should give you an excellent idea of what you’re dealing with.

Julea: We appreciate the information Stacy and we’re almost out of time today. What else would you like to say about hiring for soft skills?

Stacy: The last thing I’d like to say is that an Animal Health Executive Search Consultant or Veterinary recruiter can help an employer screen and hire for soft skills, especially one that has experience and expertise in the employment marketplace. An experienced recruiter understands how important it is to find a complete fit, and that fit should include not just technical skills, but also soft skills.

In fact, since recruiters take the time to build relationships with candidates, they might know immediately which candidate would be perfect for a particular position, based solely on the job description and the requirements in terms of both technical skills and soft skills. That’s why it makes sense for Animal Health companies and Veterinary practices to consider using a recruiter to help fill their most important high-level positions.

Julea: Stacy, thank you again for all of this great information. And for those people who are interested in learning more about The VET Recruiter or are in need of an Animal Health Executive Search Consultant or Veterinary Recruiter, we invite you to visit The VET Recruiter website at www.thevetrecruiter.com  If you are considering a job change, there are plenty of employment opportunities on The VET Recruiter website. If you are an employer in need of the services of an Animal Health Executive Search Consultant or Veterinary Recruiter then I recommend you reach out to Stacy Pursell through the website.

Stacy: For those listeners who are open to exploring other opportunities in the Animal Health Industry and Veterinary Profession we have a number of Animal Health jobs and Veterinary jobs on our website. The website again is www.thevetrecruiter.com.

Julea: To be considered for job opportunities as they come up, you can send your resume through The VET Recruiter website and you can fill out the profile that tells us more about your qualifications and career goals. Once again, the website address for The VET Recruiter is www.thevetrecruiter.com. Stacy, as always, thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Julea, it is always a pleasure to be here and to talk with you about topics related to hiring or looking for a job in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession.  I look forward to our next episode of The Animal Health Employment Insider!