Reboot the human

Expert trainer and author Debra Stevens explains the secret behind creating thriving future working environments.

Superhuman skills are more important to employers than ever, which is a surprise to many millennials and others who have banked on their tech-heavy CVs to land the best jobs. Companies want soft skills, but you may have discovered that it’s not so easy to assess a candidate’s superhuman skills from a CV.

You probably know what these skills are, but it can be difficult recognising them when looking to hire the best people. For the most part, you might hope that interviews will give you some indication as to whether a candidate has the human skills needed in work now and in the future.

Here are some tips about how to identify the superhuman skills that will make the difference in any business.

What are the superhuman skills?

Based on the future skills report by the World Economic Forum the skills below will be the most sought-after human skills in the future.

  • Engage: Social skills and the ability to connect authentically
  • Listen: Slowing down and asking questions from a place of curiosity
  • Empathise: A genuine desire to understand someone else’s experience
  • Collaborate: Build, manage and collaborate in the teams of the future
  • Inspire: Storytelling, influencing, persuading and articulating ideas

How to spot them?

It’s easy enough to write skills like these down on a list, but it’s an entirely different task to identify them in job applications. When assessing human skills, start by going beyond the general skills and experience, and give some focus to behavioural interview questions to bring out these skills. For example:

  • Tell us a story about a time you helped another colleague who was dealing with a personal issue. What did you do?
  • Tell us a story about a conflict you had with another employee at work.
  • Give us an example of how you start to build a connection and relationship
  • Tell us a time when you made a mistake or were asked to go back and make corrections. How did you handle it?

Observe, observe, observe!

Of course, beyond a candidate’s past experiences, the interview itself is a good mechanism to investigate their superhuman skills. Of course you also need to be human in an interview and allow for their anxiety and nerves but a candidate with superhuman skills will shine, so keep an eye out for:

Engage How is their eye contact? Make a conscious note whether it is face-to-face or on video. Does the candidate make appropriate eye contact with you? Do they smile with their eyes? Do they find it easy to build rapport with you and make a good connection? 
Listen Do they ask you clarifying questions to check their understanding? Are they showing their listening in their body language? Do they seem present and engaged?
Empathy How do they adapt to your personality type? Do they demonstrate compassion and understanding?
Collaboration During the interview, do they challenge any of your questions or requests, and how do they do this? Are they able to adapt to any changes of direction or pace? How do they cope under the stress of an interview?
Inspire How well do they sell themselves and their strengths? What stories do they tell about their successes and challenge? And how well do they tell them? Did they make you feel good in their company and inspired by their journey?

Role model the skills

Finally, don’t forget that as a recruiter you also need to demonstrate superhuman skills. See the top tips below:
Engage Build rapport and help them to feel comfortable and relaxed. Ask some easy questions to get them started and smile!

Listen Ask open questions or use commands like “tell me about” and “describe”. Reflect back your understanding with statements like “so it seems you found that really challenging?”
Empathy Show compassion and understanding for how they might be feeling and look after them in whatever environment they are in, virtual or face-to-face.
Collaboration Remember this is a two-way thing; they need to want to work with you or the business you represent so make the interview a collaborative experience. Make sure they have time to ask questions as well.
Inspire Be that recruiter that when they walk away from the interview they tell others how much they enjoyed it. Motivate them to be their best and give their best.

The world of work is changing, but this will deliver new opportunities and give people more time to focus on higher-value work that requires empathy, emotion, collaboration and creativity – the very qualities that make us human. This means as a recruiter it’s time to make human skills more of a focus and drive towards a future we can all look forward to.

Debra Stevens is the author of Stand Out – 5 key skills to advance your career (Pearson Business) and the founder of the founder of Dramatic Training Solutions.

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