The Most Popular Interview Questions to Reveal Key Soft Skills

July 28, 2016

Over 60% of hiring managers agree that screening for soft skills is tough. In fact, figuring out if the candidate has the qualities you are looking for is often the most difficult part of the interview process.

That’s where behavioral interview questions can help. By looking at the candidates past behavior, you can more easily determine what they will be like to work with.

But, what are the best behavioral interview questions to ask? To find out, we surveyed nearly 1,300 hiring managers and created the Guide to Screen Candidates: 30 Essential Interview Questions.

Here are the most popular interview questions for six critical soft skills:

  • interview questions for soft skills

Why these soft skills matter (and which is most important)

When asked to prioritize some of the most important soft skills they look for during interviews, here’s how hiring managers ranked the following six in order of importance:

1. Adaptability

Best question: Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you had never done before. How did you react? What did you learn?

69% of hiring managers say adaptability is the most important soft skill they screen for. And it makes sense –  people who are adaptable are likely to be your best hire, as they will be able to grow and move into bigger roles at your company as it changes.

Asking candidates the above question for adaptability gives you insight into how they have approached doing something new to them in the past. Did they embrace the challenge and find a way to get things done? Or did they balk? This will show you just how adaptable they actually are.  

Maren Hogan, leader at Red Branch Media, also likes to test candidates’ adaptability by seeing how they react if something goes wrong during the interview. For example, how do they react if someone brings them the wrong coffee? Or if the interview is interrupted? “Any change to the norm is a great opportunity to see if a potential candidate is adaptable,” she says.

2. Culture fit

Best question: What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?

Research shows that employees who are a good culture fit have greater job satisfaction and superior job performance. And, making sure that a candidate will mesh with the company culture means that they are more likely to stay longer and have a lasting impact.

Asking the above question on culture fit tells you what the candidate believes is most important in a job. And, you want their answer to align to your company values. This doesn’t mean you want everyone to give the exact same answer - you don’t want to hire clones. After all, diversity of thought is important for a team's’ success. However, you want to get the sense that, however different the candidate is in terms of background and personality, they work well with other employees and make a valuable contribution to your business and culture.

3. Collaboration

Best question: Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle interactions with that person?

The phrase “two heads are better then one” has been used for centuries for a good reason - we are often able to come up with the best solutions by collaborating with others. And today, collaboration between employees is essential to the success of any business. In fact, 97% of employees and executives believe that a lack of team alignment directly impacts the outcome of a task or project.

By asking the above question on collaboration, you’ll learn how the candidate handles difficult situations with others as well as their emotional intelligence, which is one of the most desirable traits in business.

You can also find out more about how they work with others by talking to their former colleagues. Ask them what they brought to the role or project and if the colleague would work with them again.

4. Leadership

Best question: Tell me about the last time something significant didn’t go according to plan at work. What was your role? What was the outcome?

Research shows that organizations with high quality leaders are 13X more likely to outperform their competition. Cleary, having people who can guide and drive change will be essential to your company’s success.

Asking the above question on leadership let’s you see how the candidate responds when something doesn’t go according to their plan at work. Did they come up with a solution to rectify the situation? Were they responsible for the failure and do they own that? Or do they pin it on someone else? The way that someone handles mistakes and setbacks says a lot about their leadership skills.

5. Growth potential

Best question: Recall a time when your manager was unavailable when a problem arose. How did you handle the situation? With whom did you consult?

According to LinkedIn research, if an employee leaves, it costs your company 1.5X that employee’s salary to replace her. So if you’d prefer not to shell out some serious coinage, hiring people who have the potential to grow with your company is key. Not to mention, it saves you a lot of time. 

Asking the above question on growth potential reveals how a candidate works through problems on their own without someone to tell them what to do. Do they figure it out on their own? Do they ask someone else for help or input? Were they able to fix the problem without their manager? All this shows whether or not the candidate is capable of taking charge and will be able to grow into a senior role at your company.

6. Prioritization

Best question: Tell me about a time when you had to juggle several projects at the same time. How did you organize your time? What was the result?

Hiring someone who isn’t able to effectively prioritize can mean that key due dates and project timelines fall through the cracks, ultimately hurting your business. You want an employee who can differentiate between which tasks are urgent, and which ones can wait.

Asking the prioritization question shows you how the candidate copes when they have a lot on their plate. Are they able to describe the steps they take to avoid feeling stressed and logically decide which tasks are essential? You need someone who takes the time to plan out their workload so they can save time completing it and be more productive overall.

For more interview questions to help you screen candidates for these six soft skills, as well as tips on how to ask these questions and candidate questions you should be ready to answer, download the Guide to Screening Candidates: 30 Essential Interview Questions.

*Image by clement127

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