Assessing Soft Skills in Credentialing: The Tools of the Future


Assessing Soft Skills in Credentialing: The Tools of the Future

Rory McCorkle, PhD.


The skills needed to thrive in the modern workplace are changing, and so is the technology available to test and develop these skills. In the recent LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, the highest priority skills identified were soft skills, including creativity and communication. This presents many opportunities for credentialing organizations in that soft skills can invariably add value to credentialing.

The concept of adding soft skill testing to credentialing programs is still relatively new. However, the technology already exists to assess and develop these increasingly important skills within credentialing programs, and this technology is advancing quickly, thereby constantly improving our ability to assess soft skills in a secure, valid, reliable, and fair way.

Soft Skills Assessments

There are three types of tools that can be used to assess soft skills, depending on the skills, attitudes, and behaviors that you need to measure.

  1. Self-report measures are most commonly used to measure personality traits and attributes. A popular self-report format presents candidates with a statement or description of themselves where they can either agree or disagree. This is a quick and efficient way to measure traits such as the Big 5 personality factors (conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness to experience, and extraversion). Self-report assessments are flexible and accessible for candidates. These assessments are also more secure and cost effective for credentialing organizations, which is particularly important when delivered at scale.
  2. Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs) ask candidates to evaluate a scenario and select from, or rank, a selection of potential responses. SJTs are an effective tool when you need to assess how an individual has advanced their behavioral strategies to cope with particular personality traits, such as being an introvert or to develop empathy. Technology has advanced our ability to develop more complex SJTs that assess soft skills in a way that is realistic, relevant, and accessible to a diverse range of candidates.
  3. Role play, simulation, and behavioral interviews are all popular ways of measuring a candidate’s soft skills in a certain situation. These tools are most useful when you wish to assess a candidate’s behavior related to soft skills sucfh as empathy (example: in a live patient simulation in healthcare) or communication skills for managers in multiple professions (example: accountancy, law, or IT). Technological advances mean that this type of assessment can now be taken remotely. It is often used in recruitment during Virtual Assessment Centers or even home testing, where candidates are presented with a “day in the life” scenario and asked to manage an inbox, receive telephone calls, and attend meetings. They are not only judged on outcomes, but also on how they behave during the test.

The Future

While technology is already widely used to deliver computer based self-report tests, multimedia SJTs, and virtual role play assessments, there is still a huge amount of future potential.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), for example, is having a twofold impact. The use of AI in a growing number of professions finds an increasing demand for the soft skills that computers aren’t able to replicate. AI is also enhancing the security of remote assessments with ID verification using voice or facial recognition and object recognition to identify suspicious behaviors.

The opportunities presented by emerging technologies to develop SJTs beyond the advanced multimedia options already used in recruitment are enormous. Mobile-first design, animation, and Virtual Reality will all become more common, improving our ability to create engaging, realistic, and fair soft skills assessments.

Equally, high stakes assessments need secure deliver, especially where public safety is at risk. And this is also the case when it comes to assessing soft skills. Advances in remote proctoring have progressed test delivery beyond the traditional secure testing center environment. Flexible, multi-modal options involve the use of live or record & review proctoring, either in a candidate’s own home, a network of test centers, or mobile testing kiosks.

Proven solutions

Soft skills assessment has gained increasing attention in certification and licensing, and tried and tested solutions are available today to meet the need. For example, PSI has worked with the UK Civil Service to develop multimedia SJTs and increase the diversity of new hires. We have also partnered with automotive manufacturers and civil engineering contractors to identify potential leaders using problem-solving scenarios and measuring personal beliefs.

At PSI, we bring together a unique combination of technology, content, and expertise across Credentialing and Talent Management. Using our extensive experience and up to date knowledge, we create soft skills assessments for credentialing programs that are ahead of the curve by being secure, valid, reliable, and fair.