Assessing Soft Skills Current Articles

Team Skills are Too Important to Be Called “Soft”​

Despite its value, behavioral event interviewing (BEI) has some huge holes that can be quickly filled with help from the famed detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Despite its value, behavioral event interviewing (BEI) has some huge holes that can be quickly filled with help from the famed detective, Sherlock Holmes.

The biggest problem with BEI is the requirement to conduct a detailed job analysis prior to conducting the interview. The purpose of this is to ensure the behavior being assessed is made in comparison to the real requirements of the job. The problem is that most interviewers skip this most important part, invalidating the entire BEI process. Preparing a performance-based job description is a simple way to conduct a job analysis since it allows for a more accurate assessment of how past performance compares to the actual performance requirements of the role.

Without the job analysis job candidates can prepare and/or fake their responses to the, “Can you tell me about a time when you used (behavior or competency)?” since any answer can be viewed as good enough. To validate their answers BEI interviewers are instructed to follow up with the STAR fact-finding pattern, “Please describe the situation, the task, the action and the result you achieved.” Even if the response is valid it’s hard to make an assessment about ability and motivation to do the actual work required under the actual circumstances without conducting the job analysis first.

Another problem relates to the relevancy of the accomplishment from a time perspective. Describing an accomplishment five to ten years ago or more to validate a current need has little value especially if the person is no longer motivated to handle what could be a reduced role. For example, a person who’s currently a director managing managers might not still be motivated to coach and develop individual contributors despite being great at it 10 years ago.

The Sherlock Holmes’ deductive interviewing technique eliminates these problems. This simple demo lesson we created last year describes how to use this technique to help non-technical people assess technical competency. For individual contributors it involves finding out why and how a person got assigned to different technical projects and what happened once the project was completed. Behind this is the idea that those with the strongest technical skills get assigned to stretch and important projects once they’ve proven themselves with the pattern continuing as long as the person hones these skills. It’s pretty obvious that the projects a person is regularly assigned is an accurate assessment of his/her competency since it’s made by those who work with the person

The same concept can be used to assess team skills. During the interview ask what types of teams the person has been assigned, find out their roles on these teams and how this role changed on subsequent teams. You’ll quickly discover that the strongest team players have a pattern of getting assigned to important cross-functional teams which increase in importance over time. The graphic from our mobile application is provides a good summary of the questions to ask to figure this out.

You’ll need to ask this question for the person’s past few jobs to fully understand the types of teams the person has been on, how the person’s role has changed or grown, and the types of people the candidate tends to work with most often. As a bonus, you’ll also have a strong sense of the person’s technical skills by fully understanding why the person was assigned to each of these teams.

Rank the candidate high on teams skills if the types of teams the person has been assigned are reasonably comparable to the types of teams the person will likely be working on in the new role. This will be uncovered in the job analysis conducted before the requisition is approved. Our approach for conducting an effective performance-based job analysis starts by asking the hiring manager, “What does the person in this role need to do to be successful?” This usually results in 6-8 performance objectives describing the tasks and the expected results. Make sure a few of these objectives focus on team skills by finding out what teams the person will be assigned and his/her expected role.

While a structured behavioral interview is an effective tool for minimizing bias, it is far less effective for assessing actual on-the-job performance, fit and motivation unless the assessment is made based on a detailed job analysis. However, when the performance-based approach to job analysis is combined with Sherlock Holmes’ deductive interviewing techniques assessment accuracy soars. And when it comes to team skills, this is one trait that should never be compromised.

Elementary, my dear Watson.