6 Underrated Skills to Look for in a Candidate

February 9, 2015 at 12:43 PM by Kathleen de Lara

14929399639_67013a4742_b-1.jpgStill evaluating talent based on their alma mater? Among other outdated methods of qualifying talent, these passé practices taper a funnel that could easily fit several people who are likely frequently overlooked by other companies, too.

Identifying these candidates in the wild may take a little extra poking and digging, but we had a chat with a few recruiters and hiring managers to learn which traits in their best employees are turned a blind eye to the most.

Being fluent in another language

Almost all high schools offer foreign language courses, and about 51% of colleges and universities require studying a foreign language to receive a bachelor’s degree. Did you know only 18% of Americans report being able to speak a language other than English?

Candidates fluent in more than language (or who at least know how to hold a conversation with someone who is) have a better understanding of:

  • How to be flexible. Ability to get along with other cultures, styles of communication and management
  • Persistence. Learning another language takes repetition, trial and error, application
  • Curiosity. Desire to learn more about something new, unfamiliar, different

Experience working in retail

Even if you’re hiring for a role that isn’t sales, that candidate’s two year stint working at Macy’s while in college shouldn’t be written off as irrelevant job experience. Working in retail, or any service industry, gives employees a chance to hone their skills in:

  • Customer service and interpersonal communication. Routine employee-manager processes, problem-solving, product knowledge, patience, persuasion skills, handling crises
  • Time management. Working outside of the customary 9-5 schedule calls for learning how to adjust one’s personal schedule and adapting to different tasks applying to shifts throughout the day – opening shop isn’t the same as closing shop

Ability to tell a story

People who know how to tell a story well are particularly skilled in drawing focus to what’s important, presenting ideas in an easy-to-understand way, connecting details to explain their relevance, and thinking creatively. In office, this also translates to employees who may be good at speaking and writing concisely, building strategic plans, delivering presentations, and communicating with coworkers and managers. Why wouldn’t you want someone like that on your team?

Displaying emotional intelligence

Dr. Travis Bradberry calls emotional intelligence “the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.”

Hiring long-term employees who are good at their job and enjoyable to work with understand how to manage stress working under pressure, positively communicating criticism, handling and applying criticism to their work, making decisions, and working independently and with teams.

Having clout

The candidate who’s an avid food blogger? Here’s another person to keep a close eye on. These days, social media’s reach makes access to networking and connecting a much easier feat. In tandem, creating an online following is also fairly accessible – but not all candidates will use that their own branding advantage. Being able to create a following and draw attention to a cause, hobby or product other people care about takes extra time and effort, and can be amounted to someone who knows what it’s like to build from the ground up, has influence, and understands how to package their offers in way that resonates with others.

Presenting solutions over identifying problems

Taking initiative to figure out what to do instead of waiting for direction is an employee who will be able to provide direction and have the resilience and rationale to come up with a backup plan. These employees perceive both success and anticipate errors, and understand taking accountability is more valuable spend of time rather than looking for source of problem.

What candidate skills and experiences do you think are most commonly overlooked by recruiters? Share your hiring experiences in the comments. We’re always up for a little Twitter tête-à-tête, too.candidate outreach

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