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How to Select for the (Soft) Skills of 2020?

I have to admit that I had totally missed the “Future of Jobs Report” from the World Economic Forum this January and only stumbled on it last week. For those of you who also missed it earlier this year, you can download the free report here.

What I liked about the report was that it compared the skills considered to be important in today’s workforce with those required in 2020 and found that over one-third of skills (35%) will have changed in 5 years’ time. Finally someone who does not give us a prediction that is so far in the future that it could even make us believe that by 2060 we will have grown wings and will have no more need of oxygen. The prediction is only 5 years out and already indicates a dramatic change by the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, basically meaning that robotics, machine learning and ever-increasing computer power, have rendered some job skills useless for humans to perform. The message is not that our jobs will disappear (although many will), but that required job skills will change. The first trend would be hard to change, the second message seems within our span-of-control, although 4 to 5 years seems a rather short time available.

So let’s have a look at which job skills will be in demand in 2020…

  1. Complex Problem Solving (#1 in 2015)
  2. Critical Thinking (#4 in 2015)
  3. Creativity (#10 in 2015)
  4. People Management (#3 in 2015)
  5. Coordinating with Others (#2 in 2015)
  6. Emotional Intelligence (NEW)
  7. Judgement and Decision Making (#8 in 2015)
  8. Service Orientation (#7 in 2015)
  9. Negotiation (#5 in 2015)
  10. Cognitive Flexibility (NEW)

The dropouts from the 2015 list of required job skills were ‘active listening’ and ‘quality control’. I can understand that quality control could be axed by the 4th Industrial Revolution, but ‘active listening’ seems odd. But let’s neglect that fact for now and embrace the terminology ‘emotional intelligence’ and ‘cognitive flexibility’.

The real question is not what’s exactly on the list, but how on earth are we going to create a selection process to ensure that we actually hire people with these (soft) skills? The tests we are using are too often based on psychological models from the 1940’s or even before, originally developed to test army recruits and with schools of psychologists still debating today on which model prevails over the other. These tests often do not provide us with the right information to measure the new skills we want to base our selection on. Let’s hope machine learning can get us out of this testing mess soon, especially since one trait that we have not seen on the list yet is ‘impatience’. Today’s candidates young and old, do not have enough patience to sit through hours of testing and answering written questions on a computer screen, whereas we will need much more information than ever before on their soft-skills to predict if they will succeed in tomorrow’s jobs. But we cannot simply solve this with ever longer assessments based on outdated ways of psychometric testing.

The answer lies in video interviews and video-based assessments. Today we can interview candidates in less then 10 minutes by webcam in order to analyse their answers and gestures to predict personality traits and drivers of these candidates. We can use competency-based video interviews that are more engaging than anything we have seen before and build an automated, predictive selection funnel combining a short psychometric test with a video interview. These new innovations in (pre-)selection help us focus on the soft skills required in 2020 and are fully in line with the ‘impatience’ personality trait that will surely top the list in the next “Future of Jobs Report” from the World Economic Forum.

Happy Hiring!