The Soft Skills You Should Be Hiring for in 2021

Kelly Kennedy | December 4, 2020

How your people fare when things get hot will define their work and your business.

If there’s one theme of 2020, it’s that our world can change in the blink of an eye. Retailers have revamped their business strategies to blend online shopping and in-store pickup; restaurants have embraced online ordering, outdoor dining, and reduced menus; and schools have transitioned to completely remote learning environments with little to no notice.

The key to staying successful and adapting to all of the changes that come your way? Hiring exceptional people with the right traits to power through, and react appropriately, when times get tough. No matter when you’re ready to hire in 2021, these five soft skills should be at the top of your hiring requirements:

1. Resilience

As Viktor Frankl put it, “what is to give light must endure burning.” How your people fare when things get hot will define their work and your business. Over the course of the pandemic year, 69% of remote workers struggled with burnout, and the CDC found that at least 31% of Americans have actively dealt with anxiety and depression. Unimaginable pressure can build up for anyone, but team members who can persist through these complicated emotional times are worth their weight in gold.

2. Accountability

A study of accountability in leadership by Kaiser Leadership Solutions revealed interesting findings about employee performance: when organizations lacked a culture of accountability, teams were less productive.

It must be noted that a culture of accountability relies not only on your hiring process but also on holding poor performers accountable to outcomes and celebrating team members that show a high degree of this soft skill.

That said, you can lessen that struggle by identifying and hiring motivated self-starters. When things get tough, these accountable team members will shift into high gear, showing up and providing instrumental support when leaders’ plates are overflowing.

3. Mindfulness

Studies performed by UC Irvine have shown that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to a task after being disrupted.

Emails, push notifications, workplace SMS, and home-office distractions are all vying for our attention at any given moment. With so much happening in the world around us, attentive employees who are aware of how they’re spending their time are undoubtedly the most productive. As fully remote work is now commonplace and technology continues to evolve, mindfulness will increase in importance, separating top performers from the rest of the pack.

Mindfulness Diagram

4. Agility

COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of speed and adaptability in any business. Battery Watering Technologies, a manufacturer in North Carolina, is a great example. Before the pandemic, they were known for commercial and industrial products, but their team pivoted to produce face shields when healthcare providers struggled to find them.

BTW is only one example of the countless companies who have responded quickly and efficiently to change this year. They’ve been able to do so because their teams are run by (and filled with) employees who remain agile in the face of uncertainty. Responding to novel and tricky situations is a challenge – make sure your employees are ready to tackle it by hiring people that display a history of this skill set.

5. Ethical awareness

The majority of consumers want to spend money with businesses that make a positive impact; 90% of Americans would purchase a product because a company supported an issue that they care about.

Social causes are only one element of the impact your organization has on the world. If your employees take unethical action, it can reflect poorly on your business, causing sales or customer loyalty to drop.

For instance, take a look at Justine Sacco. The communications executive was fired by IAC after a racist tweet that caused the company to trend worldwide for all of the wrong reasons – inciting widespread online backlash for the brand.

On the flipside, when you can trust your employees to consistently act ethically, in both their work and personal lives, customers will have peace of mind, knowing they’re spending their money in the right place.

It all starts with an effective interview process

Now that you have a grasp on the key soft skills to prioritize, it’s time to ask: how do you look for them during the interview process?

The quick answer is a combination of knowing how to screen for these traits and moving quickly enough to lockdown exceptional people when you find them. Hiring tools like the product suite offered by interviewstream are here to help you reach the right candidates faster and using an interview guide builder provides your hiring teams with quick ways to ask the perfect questions to screen for specific talents and soft skills.

So, uncover exceptional candidates who have the 5 soft skills necessary to drive your organization to success, no matter what curve balls might come their way – after all, who you hire is a proven indicator of how successful your company will be now and in the future. Click here to have a quick chat with us on hiring.

About The Author

Kelly Kennedy is the Director of People at interviewstream. She's passionate about learning, culture, and engagement and spends her free time on any body of water within driving distance.


interviewstream is dedicated to the success of more than 900 clients from K-12 school districts, emerging businesses, midsize companies, large enterprises, colleges, and universities.

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