While hard skills, such as technical proficiency and industry-specific knowledge, are undoubtedly important, an often underestimated and overlooked aspect of hiring is evaluating soft skills. In this article, we'll delve into the vital importance of assessing soft skills when building your dream team, backed by compelling statistics and real-world insights.


Entrepreneurs, especially in the realm of small businesses, are often lured by the allure of tangible, quantifiable skills. The ability to code, proficiency in a particular software, or a deep understanding of industry-specific regulations can seem like the golden ticket to success. However, a myopic focus on hard skills has its pitfalls.

Research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center have all concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well‐developed soft and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills). Source

This shocking statistic highlights a glaring issue in the traditional hiring approach—one that could be a significant contributor to the high failure rate of startups and small businesses (in my previous article, I provided the stat – 43% hiring success rate on average).


Soft skills, often considered intangible and challenging to measure, play a pivotal role in determining the long-term success of a hire. These skills encompass a broad spectrum of interpersonal, communication, and emotional intelligence abilities that contribute to a harmonious and productive work environment.

Another study conducted with Fortune 500 CEOs found that 75% of long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25% on technical knowledge. Source

The ability to communicate effectively, work collaboratively, and adapt to change are examples of soft skills that can significantly impact the success of a team. In today's dynamic business landscape, where agility and resilience are paramount, these intangible qualities become even more critical.

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The repercussions of overlooking soft skills in the hiring process extend beyond mere statistics. Small businesses, operating with limited resources, are particularly vulnerable to the financial and operational impact of bad hires. The cost of a single bad hire can be astronomical, encompassing recruitment expenses, training costs, and the potential damage to team morale and productivity.

A study by the Society for Human Resource Management estimates that the cost of a bad hire could amount to five times the individual's annual salary. For a small business, this financial burden can be crippling, diverting resources from growth initiatives, and hindering the organization's ability to compete in a fiercely competitive market. Source


    • Adaptability and Innovation

    In the rapidly evolving small business world, adaptability is a key driver of success. Individuals with strong adaptability skills can navigate change with ease, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative solutions to challenges. The ability to embrace change is particularly crucial for small businesses, where agility can make the difference between thriving and floundering.

    • Effective Communication

    Clear and effective communication is the lifeblood of any successful venture. Managers working in small businesses must be able to articulate their vision, team members must collaborate seamlessly, and client interactions demand a high level of communicative finesse. Soft skills such as active listening, empathy, and articulate expression contribute to a positive and communicative work environment.

    • Team Collaboration

    No business is an island, and the ability of a team to collaborate harmoniously is essential for success. Soft skills like teamwork, conflict resolution, and the ability to give and receive constructive feedback are indispensable in fostering a collaborative culture. A team that works well together can overcome challenges more effectively and capitalize on diverse skill sets.

    • Leadership Potential

    Entrepreneurs often seek team members who not only excel in their individual roles but also exhibit leadership potential. Soft skills such as initiative, decision-making, and the ability to inspire and motivate others are indicative of leadership prowess. Identifying and nurturing individuals with leadership potential is essential for scaling a business and building a robust organizational structure.

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  • Reactional Interviews

Traditional interviews often focus on hypothetical scenarios and theoretical questions. Reactional interviews, as developed in our Hirebox Hire-Master program, delve into past experiences and actions, providing valuable insights into how candidates have demonstrated soft skills in real-world situations. Ask questions that require candidates to recount specific instances where they exhibited adaptability, teamwork, or effective communication. And challenge them on references. Make them react, provoke them with challenging questions.

  • Soft Skill Assessment Tools

Incorporating a great skill assessment tool into your hiring process can add a quantitative dimension to the evaluation of soft skills. The Hirebox pre-hire assessment Platform provides unique information about a candidate’s job-related soft skills – or lack of.

  • Reference Checks

While it may seem like a routine step, reference checks can provide valuable insights into a candidate's soft skills. Reach out to previous employers, colleagues, or mentors to gain a holistic understanding of the candidate's interpersonal dynamics, communication style, and overall work ethic. A candidate's track record in previous roles is often indicative of their potential success in your organization.

  • Scenario-based Testing

Create scenarios that mirror the challenges and dynamics of your workplace. Presenting candidates with real-world scenarios and observing how they respond provides a tangible demonstration of their soft skills. For instance, you could assess their ability to handle conflict, navigate ambiguity, or collaborate on a time-sensitive project. This approach goes beyond theoretical responses, offering a glimpse into practical application.

You can also invite selected applicants to a full day job interview, where you will be more able to observe their integration and relationship with your peers in the group.

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In the competitive landscape of small businesses, your success rests on the shoulders of your team. While hard skills are undoubtedly essential, the often-neglected soft skills are the glue that holds a high-performing team together. The statistics don't lie—businesses that prioritize soft skills in their hiring process consistently outperform those fixated on hard skills alone.

As an entrepreneur, it's crucial that you recognize the tangible benefits of fostering a team with strong communication, collaboration, and adaptability skills. By embracing a holistic approach to hiring—one that values both hard and soft skills—you not only increase the likelihood of success but also fortify your organization against the costly repercussions of bad hires.

That is exactly what the Hirebox pre-hire assessment offers. Get your two-week free trial at www.hirebox.com and see your candidates’ undetected, sometimes hidden soft skills – or lack of, with a precision up to 92%.

Best success,

Patrick Valtin,

CEO Hirebox