What are the power skills to look for in job candidates? Use this guide as your checklist to help you hire the best employees for your business.
Here's what you need to know:
- Once considered soft skills, power skills reflect a critical rebranding of the term that puts a proper focus on their importance
- Hard skills will always be valuable, but power skills are the ones that are critical to business success on the people side of things
- Essential power skills to hire for include writing and communication skills and active listening skills
- Other valuable power skills include leadership and management skills, negotiation skills, and conflict management skills
The remote working that came with the pandemic certainly had a role to play in the rise of power skills. But that’s not the only thing driving their meteoric rise. Once considered soft skills, power skills reflect a critical rebranding of the term that puts a proper focus on their importance.
Hard skills will always be valuable. Businesses will continue to need people who know how to code and who can create and use complex pivot tables. But power skills are the ones that are critical to business success on the people side of things.
Businesses big and small have one thing in common: They’re made up of people. Power skills can mean the difference between a team — and ultimately a company — that has the communication and teamwork skills to weather new challenges.
Power skills can mean the difference between a manager who helps their teams grow and thrive and a manager who drives talent away.
Maybe power skills are a new focus for you and your growing company. Perhaps you’ve been hiring for soft skills all along but want to be aligned with the modern shift towards power skills.
Maybe you’ve been focusing on developing the power skills of your current managers. And now you’re ready to start shifting to hiring for them right off the bat.
Whatever the reason, here are some of the most sought-after power skills that companies are hiring for today.
Power skill #1 to hire for: Writing and communication skills
So much of what we do in all aspects of life comes down to communication. The way that people share information as well as both receive and give feedback matters a lot.
Clear and constructive feedback can make or break an employee’s progression. Open, honest, and transparent communication builds trust.
Then there’s still the whole remote working trend. Gone are the days of working face-to-face for 8 hours a day. Excellent workplace communication is more important than ever. The ability to communicate effectively is critical to success for both individual managers and leaders as well as companies overall.
But communication isn’t just verbal. From email to social media and Slack, so much of our business communication these days is written.
Writing is also often the basis of performance reviews and other formal feedback loops. Being a great verbal communicator is important, but so is the ability to translate that communication into clear and accessible writing.
Power skill #2 to hire for: Active listening skills
Communication is a 2-way street. Even those who are the most eloquent speakers and writers aren’t necessarily good listeners. When it comes to effective communication, active listening is critical.
Even if you’re listening to someone, it’s important to express that you’re intently listening so that they know they’re being heard. This is active listening and it’s important because it’s critical to communication and successful working relationships.
When you’re actively listening, you’re giving someone your full and undivided attention. You’re nodding along or otherwise indicating that you’re listening. And you’re asking relevant follow-up questions that demonstrate that you were paying attention to what was said.
Luckily, this is an easy thing to look for in an interview if you know that it’s a power skill you want to hire for.
Power skill #3 to hire for: Leadership and management skills
There are distinct skills that are practically essential for any leader and manager to have. Just because someone is good at performing their role as an individual contributor doesn’t mean that they’re going to be a good manager or leader.
Good managers and leaders understand that they’re not just managing work, but that they’re managing the people doing the work. This means genuinely caring about — and devoting time to — the professional development and growth of every person on your team.
Does a leadership candidate have a track record of implementing processes so that these important growth and development milestones don’t get overlooked? How many of an applicant’s previous team members have been promoted? Questions like these can help get at whether or not someone has leadership and management skills.
But growth and development aren’t the only areas where leadership and management skills matter. Strategic thinking, effective goal-setting, and coaching are all traits that good managers should have. Leaders have to look at the big picture and devise ways to make progress. This is where strategic thinking and goal-setting come in handy.
Then, whether it’s interpersonal issues or simply an underperforming employee, leaders need to be able to coach their employees through new and challenging situations. This way, leaders give their employees the opportunities to learn the skills they need to succeed rather than micromanage them through every challenge that arises.
Power skill #4 to hire for: Negotiation skills
Whether you’re negotiating on behalf of your team and the work they’re committed to or you’re helping solve an interpersonal conflict, negotiation skills are super valuable.
Effective negotiation skills mean that you have the ability to come to quality, lasting solutions.
Negotiation is an important skill in any setting where a person or team’s goals cannot be achieved alone (aka most modern workplaces). Skilled negotiators understand how to give and take while ensuring that their goals and objectives will be met along the way. Some might think of negotiation skills as generally self-serving, but that’s wrong.
Effective negotiation skills mean that you have the ability to come to quality, lasting solutions. Without the ability to negotiate a solution that meets everyone’s needs, you’ll end up with poor short-term patches. And short-term patches mean problems that never seem to end.
Power skill #5 to hire for: Conflict management skills
Conflict is simply a part of life. From unruly coworkers to difficult managers who require those below them to “manage up” and infuriated customers, conflict management is a crucial skill.
Conflict management skills are the key to keeping conflict from spiraling out of control. First, someone with effective conflict management skills will be able to keep disagreements from escalating into major issues in the first place. But even when bigger problems inevitably arise, someone with conflict management skills will be able to stay calm, see all sides, and propose viable solutions.
By keeping conflict at bay and quickly resolving issues when they do pop up, people with conflict management skills keep the focus on work. And focusing on work rather than drama keeps productivity flowing.
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The takeaway: What power skills should your company hire for?
This is far from an exhaustive list of all of the power skills that companies are looking to hire for. Emotional intelligence, empathy, and teamwork are all popular power skills. The first step in figuring out what power skills to hire for at your unique company is determining what skills your company needs to succeed and grow.
Maybe you already have a lot of people on your team who are great writers and communicators. Maybe conflict management is something you could use more of on your leadership teams. Then, once you have identified those skills, think about how you can try to suss them out in an interview process.
For active listening, you could create a checklist, for example, that’s comprised of the most common indicators of active listening. You can ask candidates about their history and experience with conflict management by asking them about a time that they successfully managed conflict.
The thing with power skills, compared to hard skills, is that they’re harder to concretely identify and teach. But just because they’re a bit more subtle doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable. By investing in power skills in the hiring phase, you’re setting your business and employees up for success in the long run.