Data-driven hiring models are increasingly able to include and assess soft skills, so it’s critical that students and job-seekers understand how this impacts and informs the process of building a successful candidate brand.
Hard skills are generally defined as those teachable skills that can be measured and quantified. Soft skills, on the other hand, are understood to be more subjective—these are the qualities and attributes we tend to think of as comprising “people skills.” Traditionally, soft skills are considered much harder to quantify.
So can soft skills really be assessed using data? The answer is: Yes.
Soft Skills Data
Soft skills data is collectable, analyzable, and actionable data that can be used to assess the soft skills of any given individual; say, a job candidate. While this kind of data is very different from hard skills data, it is no less important—to recruiters and job-seekers both.
For a recruiter, being able to understand and evaluate a candidate’s soft skills profile through reliable, agnostic data is an incredible opportunity to improve the odds of making a good hire. For the job-seeker, the chance to represent oneself via data takes virtually all the pressure off of any one moment in the hiring chronology—an interview being the most obvious example. When subjective soft skills are assessed in subjective interviews (as opposed to relying on data), the pressure goes up, and the odds of producing an authentic understanding of the candidate go down.
This is a perilous scenario for both sides of the equation.
Data-Driven Recruiting—or any hiring practice that incorporates the use of soft skills data—would seem to offer a perfect solution. And it does. But, there’s a catch.
Think of it like two different university courses. In Course A, you take a test every week for an entire semester. Your final grade in Course A is then determined by creating a composite assessment based on your weekly test performance. In Course B, there is only one test at the end of the semester. Your final grade is derived entirely from your final test performance.
Let’s look at the simple pros and cons of each model:
Course A model
Pro: It’s ok if you have a bad week here and there, because your final grade is a holistic one.
Con: If you’ve under-performed through most of the semester, there’s no fixing it in the 11th hour with a great final test performance.
Course B model
Pro: Nail the final test, and you nail the course, regardless of your performance throughout the semester.
Con: Fail the final test, and no matter how great a semester you’ve had otherwise, you still fail the class.
The Course A model is what data-based hiring models are all about—establishing a holistic and authentic representation of a job candidate. For the recruiter, this approach is virtually an unqualified blessing. For the job seeker, it can also be a blessing. But, it can also be a curse. Whether it’s one or the other depends on how you conduct yourself over the long haul. It puts the onus on you to perform well consistently over time, but it also relieves you of having to worry so much about fatal mistakes.
All of this takes on an extra layer of both complexity and resonance when you start to think about soft skills. It’s one thing to regularly test students over time to measure their mastery of specific hard skills. It’s another thing altogether to “test” for soft skills over time.
“What’s important to understand is that Udacity students learn by doing, so as they progress, they build up a portfolio of work. They also establish an ongoing record of their performance and behavior. They take tests, watch videos, and ask questions. They engage with mentors and coaches, and in forums and Slack communities. They post to GitHub, participate in hackathons, enter competitions, and publish apps. All of this activity produces data, which becomes part of the unique metadata contained in Udacity candidate profiles.”
Building Your Candidate Brand
What the student and the job-seeker both should ideally take away from this is a significant degree of confidence and security, because in this model you can rest assured knowing that your overall good works will be taken into full consideration when you apply for a new role. You can worry less about having to “nail the interview, ” and you can go forward on the strength of your portfolio, your projects, and your experience. But do remember, there is a cautionary tale here as well: your legacy goes with you in this model, for better or for worse! So take every step of your learning journey with dedication and purpose, work hard, and stay focused, with full awareness that you’re building your “candidate brand” as you go—one hard skill at a time, one soft skill at a time.
Regarding those soft skills, remember that your community interactions, the depth of your engagement, your attitude and work ethic—all these qualities factor into your candidate brand as well. So take constructive criticism with gratitude and grace. Answer questions when asked. Ask questions when you need to. Be supportive when you can, and seek support when you need it. Organize and contribute to your community. Participate in events. Engage on social media. Share resources. Use resources. Regularly each out to your instructors, mentors, coaches and peers, and respond promptly when they reach out to you. Be kind. Remember, soft skills make firm foundations.