Assessing Organizational Skills

Organizational skills—they aren’t as flashy, exciting or alluring as some things you might find on a candidate’s resume, but they should be considered an absolute necessity for anybody in the workforce. Think of these skills as the nuts and bolts that facilitate everyday company operations. People who hone organizational skills create a sense of structure and order for themselves and the people around them.

 

When searching for new team members, you can seek out candidates who bring these nitty-gritty skills to the table. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better idea of what organizational skills are, which ones you should look for and how to interview in a way that pinpoints these transferrable abilities.

 

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What are organizational skills?

Organizational skills are a set of techniques a person can implement to increase their productivity and efficiency while completing a task. These abilities allow them to make the most out of their time, energy, space and resources.

 

These skills can be “organizational” in a physical sense—in other words, related to the act of organizing. They might include maintaining a tidy work environment, keeping accurate and detailed records or storing important materials systematically. Habits like this can save time that would otherwise be spent searching for a missing item.

 

Organizational skills may also be intangibles, such as the ability to manage schedules, multitask, solve problems and make decisions. People with these abilities make the workplace more efficient by juggling numerous responsibilities with grace and composure. Organizational skills are useful when working independently or with a group, as they can be used to maintain focus, overcome challenges and, ultimately, get the job done.

 

What organizational skills are important for employers?

The list of organizational skills is long. Some people will excel in certain areas more than others. For example, an employee might have a messy, disorganized desktop; however, they never miss a deadline. Which of these two qualities is more important?

 

The answer is context dependent. As an employer, the particular skills you should seek in your candidates should depend on the type of business you’re running and what position you’re hiring for. Different jobs call for different areas of strength, and you should figure out what skills your team needs before posting your job opening.

 

Consider these two examples. Let’s say you work in hospitality and are hiring a new server for a busy hotel restaurant. Time is of the essence in this type of setting, so organizational skills such as time management, multitasking and the ability to prioritize tasks are necessary for such fast-paced work.

Now, imagine you work in an office setting and are hiring for a new secretary. Visual organization may be very important now, as this employee’s desk will form the first impression for anyone who visits your business. Also, the new secretary will be responsible for taking phone calls, scheduling appointments and sorting important documents. You’ll want someone who keeps thorough records and pays attention to detail to handle these office duties.

 

Examples of organizational skills

This list of organizational skills examples is rather fundamental. Many of these abilities come into play regardless of what you do for a living. If some of these skills stand out as being particularly important for your company, don’t be afraid to highlight them in any job descriptions or postings that potential candidates will see.

  • Neatness
  • Coordination
  • Managing schedules
  • Documentation
  • Time management
  • Multitasking
  • Planning
  • Decision-making
  • Problem-solving
  • Delegation

How employers can assess a candidate’s organizational skills

When your business has a job opening, you may find yourself looking through application after application, unsure of exactly what you should be looking for in a qualified candidate. Aside from the hard skills required for the position, you can also look for the soft skills that will impact their performance at your company. Though it may not be explicitly stated, you can often identify when a person’s organizational skills have been developed.

 

In the application materials

When reviewing a cover letter or reading a resume, a simple strategy you can use is to look for keywords. When assessing organizational skills, you might search for terms such as “coordinated,” “managed,” “planned” or “maintained.” These and similar phrases suggest that a candidate has experience organizing something, whether they created it themselves or sustained something that was already up and running. You can also look for previous experiences that require organizational skills. These might be leadership roles, planning committees or working in a high-pressure environment.

 

Another way to identify organizational skills is to look at the timeframes provided on a cover letter or resume. Has this person ever held down more than one position at a time? If they’re a student, did they do something outside of the classroom, such as internships, collegiate sports or volunteer work? The ability to effectively handle numerous responsibilities is indicative of organizational skill. Individuals with such busy lifestyles know how to keep track of their obligations, balance their time and prioritize the most important tasks.

 

During an interview

Here’s where you can really tease out the details about a person’s organizational skills. You can go about this in two distinct ways.

  1. Develop an outline for a structured interview in which you provide all candidates with exactly the same prompts. A common question is “What are your three biggest strengths/weaknesses?” You might also devise theoretical scenarios to which each candidate decides how they would respond.
  2. If you want to get a little more personal, you can also conduct an unstructured interview. With this approach, each conversation will be tailored to the individual. If they had some previous position or accomplishment that intrigued you, ask them for details about that experience. If there are specific organizational skills you’re interested in, you can ask the candidate to share stories of times they had to use them. For example: “When was the last time you planned something, and how did you go about doing it?” or “How do you balance your busy schedule?”

You can combine all these interview tactics to get a better understanding of each interviewee’s organizational skill set.

 

Reference checks

If you ask applicants to provide references, be sure to make contact, as they can provide a more objective view on the person’s work habits. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions about their level of organization, including their areas of strength and weakness.

 

Developing organizational skills

While organizational skills should be considered during the hiring process, it’s important to realize that any employee—no matter how qualified—has room for improvement. You can help your team develop organizational skills through specific training or by giving them the opportunity to learn through experience. For example, putting individuals in charge of managing projects or planning meetings gives them the chance to exercise abilities such as navigating schedules, meeting deadlines and delegating tasks.

 

These and other organizational skills don’t just come naturally; they’re acquired through experience and refined by practice.

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