Recruiting & Hiring Candidates with Power Skills

Tammy Cohen, PHR, SHRM-CP

November 14 2022

In the US alone, automation could eliminate 73 million jobs by 2023. AI, automation, and machinery has transformed the future of work across the globe As employers increasingly allocate jobs to machines, it’s imperative that you  know which skills can and cannot be replaced by technology. Typically, jobs that require mostly hard skillsare being replaced because power skills are much harder for a machine to learn. So, what are power skills, and how do you hire a candidate with power skills? This guide will teach you all about recruiting for power skills throughout the hiring process.

What are power skills?

Once called soft skills, power skills have been renamed and redefined by business leaders who realized the need to emphasize their importance. To really understand power skills, you must first understand hard skills:

Hard Skills are teachable. A candidate gains their hard skills through their education, training, and hands-on experience. These are typically technical in nature and easily measurable. Any profession likely has its own unique list of hard skills required to perform the tasks assigned. Here are some examples:

  • Accountant – keeping spreadsheets in Excel, data analysis, statistical analysis, business and/or technical writing, regulatory management
  • Chef – preparing and cooking food, working with kitchen tools and machinery, identifying flavors, balancing seasoning
  • Digital Marketer – working with CRMs, writing/copywriting, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, using WordPress

Power Skills consist of certain traits and abilities learned throughout a candidate’s entire life, making them much harder to teach. They are related to someone’s core personality, motivations, communication abilities, and interpersonal skills. Power skills are the people skills and behaviors that enable employees to succeed, which make the difference between a dysfunctional team and a healthy, productive team, so it’s essential to look for them when hiring. Here are some examples of power skills in the same professions:

  • Accountant – critical thinking, time management and prioritization abilities, effective communication with colleagues, working with a team
  • Chef – conflict and time management, adaptability, ability to stay calm under pressure, creativity, active listening, leadership skills
  • Digital Marketer – empathy, problem-solving, intercultural fluency, out-of-the-box thinking, forming solutions from feedback & testing

5 most important power skills to look for in an interview

Regardless of the role you’re recruiting or hiring for, certain power skills are universally valuable for your company. Here are the 5 most important power skills to hire for:

  1. Communication:

An employee’s ideas and solutions are only as good as their ability to communicate them. While every job doesn’t require finely polished writing or mastered public speaking skills, any team relies on workers who know how to communicate on a fundamental level. Someone with good communication skills speaks up when they notice issues and think of solutions. They respond to virtual communications like emails and Slack messages in a clear and timely manner, which is increasingly crucial as remote work grows in popularity.

One of the most important power skills regarding communication is active listening. An active listener listens to people speak with presence, aiming to not only hear a colleague’s words but to fully understand their message with objectivity. They pay attention to nonverbal communication and reflect to people during conversations. This is the foundation of effective communication.

In the interview: Luckily, you can check for this power skill in the interview. Look for cues like a candidate nodding along as you speak, taking time to provide thoughtful answers, and truly responding to both your questions and the details you give. It’s important to note that looking for candidates with good communication skills does not involve bias and discrimination against candidates with foreign accents or disabilities. Check out this article for tips on conducting an unbiased interview.


  1. Conflict Management:

In addition to effective communication, a safe and healthy work environment depends on conflict resolution. While it’s unreasonable to expect any workplace to be conflict-free, you should set high expectations for the way your employees handle conflicts that arise. This will improve workplace relationships, reduce turnover, and mitigate risk for your company.

In the interview: When hiring for power skills, look for candidates who know how to manage conflict. Ask them about a time they dealt with an issue in the workplace and listen closely to how they handled it. A candidate with strong conflict management skills will stay calm when issues arise, deescalate disagreements, seek to see all sides with objectivity, and propose viable solutions.


  1. Emotional Intelligence:

Emotional intelligence is a power skill that someone from any background can have or lack. Once an overlooked attribute, employers have increasingly noticed how much employees’ “EQ” impacts their work performance. In a 40-year study at UC Berkeley, they found that EQ is 400% more effective than IQ when predicting a candidate’s work performance.

An emotionally intelligent person has self-awareness, empathy, and social skills. They are self-motivated, but they understand their actions’ impact on others and act accordingly. They know the importance of self-care, thus managing their emotions and understanding how to manage others’ emotions, as well. Building a team comprised of emotionally intelligent people will likely reduce turnover, improve productivity, and decrease conflicts in the workplace.

In the interview: Signs of emotional intelligence to look out for during interviews are curiosity, self-confidence, an awareness of personal strengths and limitations, displays of empathy and sensitivity towards others, and a positive attitude towards change. Plus, since interviews typically induce stress, this is a good time to pay attention to how a candidate manages their emotions.


  1. Creativity & Critical Thinking:

Any job role benefits from a creative employee with strong critical thinking skills. This means they can manage themselves, self-motivate, and come up with their own unique solutions. Upper management already has a lot of work to do, so it’s inconvenient and costly to hire employees who constantly need to be told what to do and depend on managers for every task.

Creative employees with strong critical thinking skills can think for themselves. They notice what’s going on around them and ask questions, using objective thinking and openness to consider all the options before coming up with answers. During brainstorming, they come up with several solutions before working with their team to find a compromise.

In the interview: A candidate with these power skills will ask questions—but not the questions typically found in an article that teaches people about how to have a good interview. Instead, they will ask thoughtful questions that directly relate to the conversation and are unique to the specific position or industry.


  1. Adaptability:

Work environments are rarely stagnant. To succeed at a job, employees need the ability to adapt to any changes that come their way. Anyone who has all the previously listed attributes will likely be able to pivot quickly and calmly when plans get changed instead of shutting down.

An adaptable candidate will display curiosity and openness to new viewpoints and perspectives. They get excited about challenges that come their way.

In the interview:  This shows in interviews with candidates who seem optimistic and prepared to take on any job functions that are new to them. Look for the candidate who is honest about not having a certain experience but is curious and eager to gain the experience. Rather than being ashamed about what they do not have on their resume, they have a ready-to-learn attitude.

How to look for power skills when hiring

Recruiting for power skills begins with a candidate’s resume. Often, candidates are aware of the power skills that stand out on a resume, so they will have attributes like “adaptable,” “problem-solver,” and “active-listener” listed. You want to look for these keywords on resumes; however, how do you know that a candidate actually has these power skills? It starts with employment and education verifications.

When you verify a candidate’s resume through a professional background screening vendor, you receive key informationabout their work ethic and core personality. Verification specialists acquire these details by speaking to references who have worked directly with the applicant and asking questions about their teamwork, communication, performance, and more. This will verify that everything listed on the resume equates to who the candidate is.

A criminal background check must be used in addition to verifications to mitigate risk. Someone can put on a good face and display power skills at work, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the potential to put your company at risk. Verifying that a candidate is not a thief, registered sex offender, or violent individual is one more way to ensure that a person authentically has strong power skills that will benefit your company.

Additionally, conducting strong and organized interviews is a great way to ensure that your organization hires suitable candidates. Interviewers must be extremely observant and present during interviews. They should observe every little detail, like how a candidate greets them, the candidate’s body language, how well they listen, and their attitude towards certain questions and functions within the job.

If you want assistance in building your recruiters power skills or upping the power skills within your organization,connect with Innolect. They offer customized assessments tailored to your organization’s specific needs to assist in your evaluations. Their broad expertise sets them apart, making them a strong source of guidance for your company.

Hiring Candidates with Power Skills: Verified

Interested in learning more about how verifications and background checks ensure your candidates’ claimed power skills are legitimate? With over three decades of experience in the background screening industry, InfoMart has the answers. Reach out to one of our sales representatives at (770) 984-2727 ext. 4 or request a quote. We’re happy to speak to you about how we can tailor our verifications and screening services to your company’s unique needs.

I would love to hear from you and connect; add me on LinkedIn to keep in touch.

About Tammy Cohen

Tammy Cohen, an industry pioneer and expert in identity and employment screening, founded InfoMart 30 years ago. Deemed the “Queen of Screen,” she’s been a force behind industry-leading innovations. She was most recently the first-to-market with a fully compliant sanctions search, as well as a suite of identity services that modernizes talent onboarding. Tammy revolutionized the screening industry when she stepped into the field, developing the first client-facing application and a due diligence criminal search that has since become standard for all background screening companies. Cohen has received national awards and honors for her business and civic involvement, including Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Top 25 Women-Owned Firms in Atlanta, Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year award, the YWCA of Northwest Georgia’s Kathryn Woods Racial Justice Award, and a commendation in the 152nd Congressional Record.

About InfoMart

InfoMart has been revolutionizing the global background and identity screening industry for 30 years, providing businesses the information they need to make informed hiring decisions. They develop innovative technology that modernizes talent onboarding, including a first-to-market biometric identity authentication application and a verified sanctions search. The WBENC-certified company is a founding member of the Professional Background Screening Association, and they have achieved PBSA accreditation in recognition of their consistent business practices and commitment to compliance with the FCRA. The company is dedicated to customer service, speed, and accuracy, and it has been recognized for its success, workplace culture, and corporate citizenship with over 45 industry awards. To Get the Whole Story on InfoMart, please visit, follow @InfoMartUSA, or call (770) 984-2727.

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