The Data-Driven Approach to Evaluating Soft Skills in Healthcare Candidates

Evaluating soft skills in healthcare candidates is a high priority in today’s rapidly evolving labor market. Yet it remains one of the most difficult tasks during the sourcing and interviewing processes.

While candidates list their technical expertise and qualifications on their resumes, there aren’t any licenses, certifications, or degrees to highlight their soft skills.

So talent acquisition (TA) teams must devote hours to assessing a candidate’s ability to communicate, empathize, collaborate, and adapt.

Even then, “measuring” how well a candidate may provide quality patient care and ensure organizational success is still subjective. Qualitative judgment calls may also be tainted with unaddressed biases.

In this blog, we’ll explore why and how your team should adopt a data-driven approach to soft skill assessments to speed up the hiring process and ensure better fits for your culture, goals, and patients.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills encompass the personal attributes, interpersonal abilities, and emotional intelligence powering individuals to communicate effectively, collaborate harmoniously, and adapt gracefully in various professional and social contexts.


It’s often said that technical or hard skills determine a candidate’s ability to perform their job, while soft skills spotlight how well they’ll interact with their patients, coworkers, and managers. Soft skills also demonstrate whether candidates make good cultural fits for your organization.

Why soft skills matter in healthcare

Soft skills are vital in healthcare because they enable providers to intelligently navigate complex situations in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment and forge compassionate connections with their patients and teammates.

According to studies and statistics:

Ultimately, hiring for more soft skills in healthcare ecosystems helps:

Improve patient care & patient satisfaction

Soft skills play a pivotal role in nurturing a patient-centered approach that focuses on treating illnesses while addressing the emotional and psychological needs of patients.

Empathy and emotional intelligence help caregivers reduce patient anxiety, actively listen to concerns, and brainstorm creative solutions.


Effective communication between medical professionals and patients leads to more accurate diagnoses, improved treatment adherence, and increased patient satisfaction.

When patients feel seen, heard, and involved in decision-making, they’re more likely to return for follow-ups and have better health outcomes.

This may explain why researchers in one study discovered that poor communication contributed to 80% of serious medical errors.

Enhance teamwork & employee engagement

Teamwork and collaboration among healthcare staff enhance efficiency and reduce errors.

Healthcare workers with abundant soft skills:

  • Take accountability
  • Collaborate effectively
  • Discuss situations without being confrontational
  • Avoid conflict and “drama”
  • Actively listen to multiple perspectives and make strategic decisions

High employee engagement rates correlate with lower burnout cases and may help prevent employee turnover. Engagement is also highly linked to job satisfaction and provider performance.

Rethinking traditional methods for evaluating soft skills

Hiring teams often gauge the soft skills of candidates using subjective assessments, such as reference checks and interviews. While these methods can offer valuable insights, they’re also prone to bias, white lies, and inconsistency.

For example:

  • A candidate’s resume may include soft skill keywords they found in your job ad but do not actually possess.
  • During interviews, candidates may embellish their grasp of soft skills, only presenting what they think you want to hear. Conversely, the perfect candidate may be too nervous or anxious to explain the soft skills they actually have.
  • Standard interview questions (What’s your strongest skill?) also prompt standard answers, which do not provide a clear spectrum of best-fit candidates.

These limitations prove that modern healthcare hiring teams must embrace a more objective, data-driven approach to compete in today’s competitive talent landscape.

Benefits of a data-driven approach to evaluating soft skills in healthcare talent

Harnessing the power of data may revolutionize how your TA team evaluates soft skills in candidates and hires the best talent. By leveraging in-depth analytics, your team can identify, quantify, and measure the essential soft skills needed for each role.


This method contributes to:

Improved hiring decisions

By basing selections on objective, quantifiable data rather than gut feelings, organizations can increase the likelihood of interviewing and selecting candidates who genuinely possess the required soft skills for each role.

Accurate insights into your candidates' interpersonal abilities will provide a clear understanding of the right fit for your team’s needs, hiring goals, company culture, and more. This confident alignment enhances healthcare retention rates and hiring manager satisfaction.

Consider this: 89% of managers said bad hires usually don’t have soft skills. So it’s critical to remove these applicants from your candidate pipeline as soon as possible.

A more diverse, inclusive workforce

Data-driven soft skills evaluations reduce unconscious bias to strengthen diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. They also provide an objective basis to analyze the demographics of your employees and candidates to find and resolve representation gaps.

This transparent, standardized process promotes fairness and equal opportunity for applicants from diverse backgrounds and experiences. This data may also influence your recruiting initiatives and inclusive workplace policies.

💡 Read more: The Business Case for Diversity & Inclusion in Healthcare

Enhanced training and development programs

Data-driven assessments don't end at the hiring stage; they can also shape robust training and development programs that can be used to:

  • Bring top candidates up to speed. Unicorn applicants possess everything you’re looking for. But they’re also unrealistic. Professional development can strengthen the soft skills candidates have and instill new ones they’re missing.
  • Future-proof your workforce. As AI and automation take over more duties, 30% to 40% of future jobs will depend on social-emotional skills. Pinpointing specific soft skill gaps within your workforce empowers your organizations to tailor training initiatives that effectively address these gaps now and in the future.

Here’s a competitive edge to think about: only 31% of employers provide soft skill development training to their teams. But MIT researchers discovered the return on soft skill training can be as high as 250%!

Implementing a data-driven soft skills evaluation process

Over 91% of organizations want more soft skills, but 81% of those companies find it challenging to hire talent with the soft skills they’re seeking.

The secret to sourcing these emotionally intelligent candidates is a thoughtful, well-structured, data-driven evaluation process. Follow these steps to create your workflow and seamlessly integrate data-driven soft skills evaluations into your recruitment strategy:

1. Identify the top soft skills to look for in healthcare workers

Research shows that 92% of talent professionals believe soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills during hiring. So when sourcing and interviewing new team members, healthcare hiring teams must look for soft skills such as:

  • Clear, meaningful communication
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Teamwork, collaboration, and conflict resolution
  • Time management
  • Honesty, integrity, and strong ethics
  • Versatility and adaptability
  • Emotional intelligence (which includes self-awareness, empathy, social skills, self-regulation, and self-motivation)

Of course, each healthcare organization must define the core soft skills that align with its values and mission.

Collaborate with your team to pinpoint each role’s desired behaviors and traits (i.e., registered nurse soft skills, physician soft skills, medical assistant soft skills, etc). These will serve as the foundation for all your candidate data collection and analysis.

2. Select the appropriate tools for data collection & analysis

Various methods and tools will help your team collect and analyze data related to soft skills. Once set up, many of these can run on autopilot using your evaluation criteria.

Consider implementing these ideas before or during the application stage:

  • Utilize your ATS. Modern ATS platforms often offer the capability to customize assessment tools and surveys to target soft skills specifically. Your team can systematically gather relevant information about each candidate, refine your talent pool, and create a centralized, organized database.
  • Partner with a psychometric assessment provider. Their standardized online tests and questionnaires evaluate each candidate’s personality traits, attitudes, and psychological attributes. Pre-employment tests are designed to quantify soft skills to give hiring teams a clear understanding of an individual's behavior, aptitudes, and potential for various tasks or roles.
  • Try job simulations and role-playing exercises. You can follow these scripts during interviews or set up online questionnaires with multiple-choice answers to gauge how candidates may handle real-world scenarios before you push them through to the next round.
  • Use your in-house employee data. Before opening new roles, measure and assess the soft skills of your most successful previous and current employees in those positions. You can use these to establish a baseline for future hires.

3. Standardize & quantify your healthcare interviewing

In our guide on How To Streamline Interviews To Improve Hiring Outcomes, we shared our favorite tips for ensuring consistent, bias-free candidate assessments.

We encourage you to check out that guide and add these techniques to your workflow to assess soft skills specifically:

  • Ask candidates to rank their soft skills on a numerical scale. You can use this tip during the application or interview stages. Essentially, you’ll present candidates with a list of soft skills and ask them to rank their skills from numerically lowest (1 - weakest) to highest (10 - strongest). Those most competent in the skills you’re prioritizing will rise to the top.
  • Create three-point scorecards. For ultra-simple candidate scorecards, assign a number rating to three types of interview answers: No = 1, Yes = 2, and Definitely = 3. Ask candidates STAR questions (i.e., those requiring candidates to explain a work-related situation, task, action, and result) to evaluate the effects of their soft skills and workplace behavior.

These answers can help your team determine the best fits for your roles and organization, save time and resources, and improve hiring success and retention rates.

Overcoming challenges & considerations

The benefits of a data-driven approach to soft skills assessments are undeniable, and it’s relatively simple to integrate the right data collection tools into your hiring process. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges you’ll also need to consider, such as:

  • Ensuring data accuracy and reliability. Data accuracy is an ongoing effort. Keep analyzing and refining your collection and assessment methods based on candidate performance and the outcomes of their soft skills in real-world scenarios.
  • Ethical considerations. Inform candidates that their soft skills will be assessed using data-driven methods. Obtain their informed consent to participate in assessments and offer them insight into the evaluation process.
  • Data privacy. You must protect candidate data with utmost care. Follow all data protection regulations and establish secure storage and sharing practices.

Striking a balance between effective data utilization and preserving candidate privacy and fairness is imperative. Organizations must also continually ensure that assessments do not unfairly advantage or disadvantage particular groups.

Harnessing relode for AI-powered, data-driven candidate matching

A data-driven approach to soft skill evaluations helps your TA team uncover which applicants possess the interpersonal qualities you require for stellar patient care, hiring success, and positive organizational outcomes.

By identifying the top soft skills for each role, collecting and analyzing data, and implementing a carefully planned process, you’ll usher in a new era of accurate, fair, and impactful hiring decisions.

Relode leverages AI-powered data insights & hiring analytics to find top talent

Relode combines the power of technology with the work ethic of a boutique staffing firm to give teams superb data-driven talent sourcing and hiring.

Our targeted recruiting engine leverages human expertise, AI, and automation to provide access to candidates not found on the typical job boards and scraped databases. It expertly matches your soft skill reqs to deliver vetted, interview-ready Relode-Certified candidates to your virtual door (or straight to your iCIMS workflow!).

For more information on data-driven hiring, check out our report on Trends in Talent Sourcing: Human Connection Meets Technology.

To see how Relode makes hiring better for everyone, reach out to learn more about our intuitive platform now.