How Soft Skills and Life Exposure are able to offer new dimension to Hiring Managers

Gone are the days where resumes are only used to screen potential candidates.  They are still a ready tool but the “I know so-and-so” takes a precedent for most job opportunities – which explains why leveraging the network your personal Recruiter has is important.

I have written an article about choosing the right type of Recruiter here.

Your personal corporate network is also helpful.  LinkedIn is a great tool.  This depends on how warm your contacts are.  Spend time developing them over 12 months.

Now, the challenge is to convince the Hiring Manager about your profile.  Often, they will choose the incumbent with the same industry experiences and similar skill set in the sector.

Take Joe for example.

He is a salesperson for a manufacturing company handling spare parts for lubricants and automobiles.  He has knowledge in dealing with suppliers and distributors.  He handles mainly in product specification.  Can he transit to another sales job in pharmaceutical, aviation?  Or a sales job in the service segment?

Probably aviation may have a chance because of his familiarity in handling technical specification. Service selling is out due to different way of engagement.

How one transfers their soft skills to another new role is a stumbling block – and it boils down to the initial criterion first.


The candidate must be very clear in their unique abilities before distinguishing himself/herself.

For instance, if Simon is a waiter at a posh restaurant, he can highlight his intermediate level of dealing with customers (read: emotional maturity) since there will be nasty customers, demanding patrons. Saying things like “I like to meet and talk to people” is too vague and doesn’t give any visibility.

If Simon climbs up to be the Assistant Manager, he will then talk about managing staff and payroll.  So, he has both people-to-people communication techniques, as well as exposure to leadership in the F&B industry.

If Simon climbs up to General Manager and has a P&L (profit & loss) responsibility, by then, he will have amassed experiences in motivating his team, exceptional service competency, operational expertise, financial and business skill to grow the business.  He can then position himself as a seasoned F&B professional with the ability to manage a team of 8 and turn a loss making/thin margin restaurant into profitability.

man in red crew neck sweatshirt photography
Photo by bruce mars on

Therefore, knowing what you can do AND able to deliver is vital.   The next step is then to specifically articulate your strengths.

If one is not sure how to sell, please drop me a line, we can have a coffee chat.

But it’s not that simple right…..


Typically, the Hiring Manager prefers the same type of folks in the same industry.  Saves time, not a tedious process.  Leaving them to pick candidates within a box, not a pool of talent.  I can understand from their point of view – taking a risk and getting a meager reward; however there are pros and cons.

Let me point out one of each:

PRO – get experienced candidates who know the “inside-out” of doing things, who able to grasp the industry language easily

CON – possibility to end up with a candidate with the same mindset, same way of doing things resulting in stagnant growth

We are in the new revolution of technology.  Adaptation is critical.

Would a firm end up having a bunch of followers or a new General who has a vision to push beyond the traditional methods, the ability to identify new growth opportunities?

Otherwise, the usual cycle of recruitment continues without successful outcome.  Ends up getting five birds with the same flock.  You just need one to two birds to guide the rest into a new realm of reality.

Two birds can be seen as spreading their broad horizon to the team, sharing new best practices, new methods and innovative approaches with practicality.

I speak to some of the HR in LinkedIn – sadly, they used experiences to screen out in the first attempt.  Sometimes, there are intriguing attributes and curious abilities.

Having a myopic lens to recruitment will just eliminate winners.   

The past CEO of SingPost, Wolfgang has shown how a transformation to e-commerce can be done with a local postage provider.  He wasn’t working for some big time logistics firms.  This results in Alibaba taking a strategic stake in the locally listed company.

The caveat here is to properly identify the candidate’s accomplishments (avoid looking at experiences only), assess if his soft skills (leadership, management, communication, motivation, empathy etc..) are a right fit for the role.

For Hiring Managers to take a bird’s eye view

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Photo by Tom Swinnen on

Perhaps, having a brief 10 minutes conversation is able to yield interesting findings.

A good way is to ask his interests, passion and hobbies in life.

If he loves to travel and has been to far flung countries for specific non-for-profit missions – chances are this person is independent and can get his hands dirty to make things happen.  Such exposure is permanent and will form part of his belief in life – something that can be applicable to the team’s culture which affects overall corporate performances.

Another great way to evaluate their values is to pose scenarios over a phone chat, using the “what-if” situational questions.

For instance “what if you are in a jungle with two people, how do you as a leader find a safe passage out with your people?  You hold only a compass, a small water bottle and two snack bars.  Interesting yet able to span out different outcome – this gives a sense of how the incumbent thinks.

I am not saying experiences are not relevant.

A mix of talent is needed – one can’t just have all innovators without an experienced Archer who can see beyond the fog.

The dangerous part is to choose the easy route out of using experiences only as a screener.  Hence, I do urge both the HR and Hiring Manager of the company to look beyond a myopic lens.  Look for soft skills and life diary of an individual

Thus, the Hiring Manager has to find out the missing attributes and how the candidate is able to fit into a wider team to hit a specific business objective.

After all, Singapore is built with a bold vision of leaders – who doesn’t just fit into a checklist of said experiences.

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