Half of management candidates need to improve leadership skills

New research from Robert Half finds a core competency shortage: 50% of management candidates lacking leadership skills, 49% of staff level candidates lacking functional, job-related skills.

  • Core competency shortage: 50% of management candidates lacking leadership skills, 49% of staff level candidates lacking functional, job-related skills
  • Interview performance and professional experience most important factors for HR directors when making hiring decisions  

London, 24 January 2017 - Every second candidate applying for a management level position is lacking leadership skills, according to UK HR directors. New research by Robert Half UK of 200 HR directors also revealed that nearly one in five (18%) management candidates fall short on planning skills, with 15% lacking functional, job-related skills and 14% lacking communication skills.

Candidates applying for staff level roles are equally lacking one of their core competencies, with nearly half (49%) of candidates not holding the desired functional, job-related skills. Other areas staff level candidates need to improve in are communication skills (22%) and leadership skills (20%). Just 5% of HR directors think those at staff level should worry about improving their project management or strategic planning skills.

Table one: Areas HR directors would like to see candidates improve the most


Management level positions

Staff level positions




Strategic planning



Functional, job-related skills






Project management



Source: Robert Half

Two-fifths (42%) of HR directors said that, when evaluating candidates, technical skills carry a greater weight than non-technical skills, with just 15% saying the opposite. Additionally, anyone applying for a management level position should also bear in mind that their interview performance is as crucial as ever, with 39% of HR directors stating this was the most important factor when making a hiring decision. 

Those applying for staff level positions should focus on their professional experience as this is the most important factor when recruiting for these roles, say 44% of HR directors.  Other factors include job interview performance (29%), candidate testing (17%) and reference checks (6%). Unsurprisingly, nearly half (45%) of HR directors place a greater weight on technical skills when looking for staff level candidates than they do on softer skills.

Phil Sheridan, Senior Managing Director at Robert Half UK, commented: “The need for developing soft skills as professionals advance in their careers is becoming ever more important. Many organisations today are reviewing their growth goals for the year and are ensuring they have the right people on hand to help steer the organisation to meet those goals.

“When adding new professionals to their team, hiring managers base their decisions on different criteria, depending on the level of seniority of the role. Professional experience and functional skills are the most important factors for hiring managers recruiting for staff level roles, in comparison to the emphasis on leadership skills for management level. One thing that is clear from both is the need for new hire’s to add value from day one and support the business objectives.”

- ENDS -

Notes to editors

1 The annual study was developed by Robert Half UK and is conducted by an independent research firm.  The study is based on more than 200 interviews with human resources directors from companies across the UK, with the results segmented by size, sector and geographic location.

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. We have once again been named to FORTUNE’s “World’s Most Admired Companies®” list and remains the top-ranked staffing firm (February 2020). Founded in 1948, the company has over 300 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, legal and administrative professionals. Robert Half offers workplace and jobseeker resources at roberthalf.co.uk and twitter.com/roberthalfuk.