Whether a candidate thrives in their role is not something you can predict based on professional and academic qualifications alone. As it turns out, personal traits, characteristics, and competencies that inform to how an individual relates to others are equally—or sometimes even more—important when looking for the next hire. Jonathan Lister, vice president of sales and country manager at LinkedIn, said that these skills are crucial in building a strong talent mix and setting up your team for success. Despite their obvious importance, however, an overwhelming 89 percent of executives surveyed by The Wall Street Journal report that it is rather difficult to find people with the right soft skills.

So what soft skills should you consider non-negotiable for your future employees? Here are the top five interpersonal qualities that are critical across most fields of work.


Great communication skills take the top spot on a LinkedIn survey that ranked the most in-demand soft skills today, and for good reason. This, of course, is a must for client-facing employees, but also proves to be imperative for those that don’t interact with customers. Even with the help of technology, one still needs the ability to present information effectively through written or spoken communication. Good communication also translates to their ability to work with a team, which is critical for any position.

Time Management

Time management also ranks pretty high for both SMEs and large companies, according to a study conducted by iCIMS. There are always a number of distractions in the workplace, and employees need to be conscientious enough to make sure that everything gets done on time. You need someone who can discern which tasks need to take top priority so that their time and resources are allocated efficiently. But most importantly, you need someone who can notify their manager regularly, particularly if the deadline is impossible to meet.


Though you may probably want to hire an applicant who can follow instructions, you should also be looking into their capacity to operate independently. This is most especially true for roles that require minimal supervision. They should be able to take initiative, have a sense of personal accountability and possess self-confidence when solving problems on the job.

One good example to assess this is to ask candidates to tell you about how they tackled a challenge and their process for finding a solution.

Desire to Learn

It’s one thing to understand their strengths and limitations, but the willingness to learn is a far more desirable trait in potential employees. This signifies an eagerness to grow into their roles and an intent to remain in the company for the foreseeable future.

Candidates who ask probing questions about things like the company culture, their managers’ mentoring style and how success is measured are good signs in this case.


As far as soft skills go, humility may just be the most underappreciated. But the ability to own up to one’s mistakes and give credit where it’s due is what makes an individual a good teammate. There is no place for someone that appears to be more invested in their ego than accomplishing their goals at work and performing as they are expected. It all comes down to their respect for co-workers and immediate supervisors.


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